Sun Grills Microsoft on Interoperability

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-12-05

Sun Grills Microsoft on Interoperability

BALTIMORE—After Sun Microsystems Inc. finished with its last witness, Microsoft Corp. Wednesday evening slogged through three witnesses and started on a fourth before calling it a day in the preliminary injunction hearing in the Sun Microsystems vs. Microsoft antitrust case here.

Microsoft put on three of its executives to refute claims by Sun that Microsoft used its market dominance to thwart the success of Java.

First, Andrew Layman, director of XML and Web services standards at Microsoft, took the stand to extol the virtues of Web services as an interoperability mechanism between disparate systems in a heterogeneous environment, eliminating the need for a "common runtime approach" like Java.

Steven Holley, an attorney for Microsoft, asked Layman why Microsoft, which has a dominant desktop operating system, would support a vendor neutral solution like Web services.

"Because it IS neutral," Layman said. "Because were convinced the world were going to be selling into is going to be widely heterogeneous. And if our software is able to interact well with a wide variety of computer systems, our software will sell better than if we focused on one platform."

On cross-examination, James Batchelder, an attorney for Sun, attacked Layman on just how true Microsofts and Laymans own support for interoperability is.

Batchelder asked Layman if he was familiar with the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization and then presented e-mail evidence where Layman discussed a project called "foo" with other Microsoft executives.

In an exchange during the testimony of James Allchin, a Microsoft senior executive, in the landmark government antitrust case against Microsoft, this issue first arose. In that proceeding foo was described as the codename at Microsoft for the WS-I, which documents showed Microsoft sought to exclude Sun from becoming a founding member.

In this hearing, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz asked, "What is foo?"

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Layman explained that foo was a name made up by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates for Microsofts effort to develop a marketing proposal to combat the appeal that Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) had garnered among corporate developers. "We needed to come up with an alternative that would resonate with developers," he said.

Christopher Jones, Microsofts corporate vice president in charge of Windows client development, testified as to why Microsoft should not have to bundle Suns Java virtual machine (JVM) with Windows, as Sun is seeking in a preliminary injunction.

Jones gave five primary reasons why doing so could actually harm Microsoft: the order would jeopardize Windows ship dates; it would expose Microsoft to the risk of intellectual property litigation and damage; the order doesnt place bounds on what Sun could put into the JVM—"it could grow without bound," he said; it could impact the quality and security of Windows and Microsoft software; and it represents a support burden and could cost Microsoft.

Later, Sanjay Parthasarathy, corporate vice president of platform strategy and partner group, argued that Microsoft has the right to ship an older and incompatible version of the Sun JVM based on a 2001 settlement agreement between the two companies.

Parthasarathy said that based on the agreement Microsoft is allowed to distribute the JVM as part of a product or successor product to Windows but not as a standalone product.

Batchelder asked whether when a user downloads the JVM from the Web it is incorporated into a product.

"If a user gets it over the Internet its not in a successor product," he asked.

"It is incorporated," Parthasarathy said. "It is designed in as a component."

Batchelder then asked if a user buys a PC and never installs the JVM is it incorporated.

"It is incorporated into that copy of Windows XP, correct," Parthasarathy said.

Following Parthasarathys testimony, Kevin Murphy, Microsofts expert economist witness took the stand briefly to try to dispel the "tremendous amount of confusion [in the court] over the last few days." More specifically, when Murphy resumes the stand Thursday morning, he will attack the theories of his University of Chicago economics professor colleague, Dennis Carlson, who testified for Sun earlier Wednesday.

Judge Motz told the court early Wednesday that he would be holding court Thursday despite forecasts of snow. He said even if the courthouse were to close, he would still have his courtroom open.

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