Jury Out on Java Ruling

Observers are split over what impact injunction will have on Windows, users.

IT experts were as split over the possible impact of Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java victory in federal court as were Sun and Microsoft Corp.

Sun received a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, in Baltimore, who ruled two days before Christmas that Microsoft infringed on Suns copyright for its intellectual property and that Microsoft must ship a Sun-compatible JVM (Java virtual machine) with each copy of Windows and the companys Internet Explorer browser.

The judges ruling is a temporary condition that Microsoft must adhere to until the case goes to trial.

"I think that the judge made a terrible mistake," said Stephen Forte, chief technology officer at New York information services company Corzen Inc. and regional director for Microsofts Developer Network. "I thought central planning ended with the fall of the Soviet Union."

Rich Salz, chief security architect at DataPower Technology Inc., an XML and Web services processing systems supplier in Cambridge, Mass., said, "On an emotional/geek activist level, I really like [the decision]."

Curt Stevenson, co-founder and vice president of Back Bay Technologies Inc., of Needham, Mass., said he sees "not too big an impact" from the decision.

"Most of what our clients use is J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] server-side Java," Stevenson said. "This [decision] will make it slightly easier to create a richer presentation layer on the client but not to the point that it will significantly impact design decisions."

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Microsoft-backed industry trade group in Washington, was—not surprisingly—not pleased by the decision.

"We are extremely disappointed and puzzled by the decision today to force Microsoft to carry Suns Java product," Zuck said. "Over the past few years, our industry has been mired in litigation that ultimately does not benefit the industry or consumers. Sun Microsystems, in particular, has taken a leading role in this litigation and lobbying frenzy."

Lee Patch, Suns vice president of strategic litigation, said he does not expect the trial to begin for more than a year.

"This decision is a huge victory for consumers who will have the best, latest Java technology on their PCs, and it is a victory for software developers who will write applications to run on those PCs," according to Mike Morris, Suns vice president and special counsel, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Microsoft officials were "disappointed" at the ruling. "Microsoft intends to appeal [the] ruling and will ask the Court of Appeals to hear it on an expedited basis," said company spokesman Jim Desler, in Redmond, Wash.

Suns Patch said the injunction should cover all copies of Windows XP, including those on store shelves. Patch also said the draft order Sun sent to the judge requires Microsoft to upgrade, for the duration of the injunction, to the most recent version of Suns JVM. He said Motz was scheduled to meet with Sun and Microsoft over the holiday break and follow up early this month on how to proceed with the order.

Motz will hold a hearing this week at which Microsoft will argue its motion to dismiss private claims against the software company by Be Inc., AOL Time Warner Inc. and others.