Microsoft to cut off support for Java in 2004

Microsoft said on Tuesday it will cut off its support for a key product of rival Sun Microsystems.

Microsoft representative Jim Cullinan said the company will no longer include Sun’s Java programming language in its Windows operating system starting in 2004, citing security concerns.

Cullinan blamed the decision on a previous antitrust settlement between the two companies, which prohibits Microsoft from making any changes to the Java software that it includes in Windows.

“If there’s a security hole found or a security problem found, we can’t fix it,” Cullinan said.

Sun is among Microsoft’s bitterest rivals. Its Java software is a computer language designed to run on different operating systems, not just on Microsoft’s dominant Windows platform.

The announcement came on the day before attorneys for Microsoft and nine states are scheduled to make their final arguments before a federal judge about what antitrust sanctions should be imposed on the company.

Cullinan, in a telephone call from Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington office, conceded that the timing of the announcement was “odd.” But he said it “has nothing to do with the (government) case.

Instead, he said, the decision stems from a 1997 lawsuit Sun filed against Microsoft, in which it accused the software giant of trying to “pollute” Java by making its own version that only ran on Windows.

The two companies settled in January 2001, with Microsoft agreeing to pay $20-million.

Cullinan said the prohibitions in the settlement, which take effect in 2004, “puts Windows and our customers at risk.”

“We are not going to include Java support in Windows from that point forward,” Cullinan said.

Microsoft initially dropped Java from its new Windows XP operating system, which was released last fall. But on Tuesday it announced it would start including the programming language in an update of Windows at the end of the summer, and keep it until 2004.

In a statement, Sun said that decision will provide “at least temporary relief for both consumers and software developers.”

But Sun called the decision to drop Java in 2004 “unfortunate” and said it was “calculated to coerce consumers and developers who prefer the Java platform to nonetheless abandon that platform ...”

Last year a federal appeals court upheld trial court findings that Microsoft used illegal tactics to maintain its Windows monopoly in personal computer operating systems.

The appellate judges rejected breaking the company in two to prevent future antitrust violations but sent the case to a new judge, Kollar-Kotelly, to consider the best remedy.

Kollar-Kotelly also is considering whether to approve a settlement the company reached with the Justice Department and nine other states in November.

Attorneys for Microsoft and nine dissenting states are scheduled to appear before US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, with Microsoft hoping to convince the judge to approve the Justice Department settlement and to reject more severe sanctions proposed by the states.

The nine states have argued that Microsoft is continuing to use its Windows monopoly to bully other companies in the industry.

Among their proposed sanctions is a provision that would force Microsoft to include Java in the Windows operating system.

In March Sun filed another private lawsuit against the software giant, claiming its business was damaged by Microsoft’s abusive monopoly.

In its latest lawsuit, Sun seeks damages of more than $1-billion.
Under antitrust legislation, the courts would triple that award. - Reuters

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