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Sun asks court to block Windows 98 with Java incompatibilities (1998)

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Baratz dubs Java to ship in Windows 98 "tainted code"

By Marc Ferranti

New York (May 12, 1998) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. today announced that it has asked a U.S. federal court to prevent Microsoft Corp. from shipping a version of Windows 98, due to go out to manufacturers Friday, which Sun says contains a version of Java that is incompatible with Sun's own version.

In two motions filed today in the Northern Division of the U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA, Sun asked the court to require that any copy of Windows 98 that has Java content be shipped with a Sun-compatible implementation of the Java platform.

Sun has also asked the court to bar Microsoft from shipping its software tools for the Java programming environment unless they generate only fully compatible Java software.

The motions were filed to ensure that Windows users have access from Microsoft to the same version of Java that is compatible with Sun's version, said Sun officials in a telephone press conference today.

"This action was taken to maintain the integrity of the Java platform," said Alan Baratz, president of Sun's Java software division.

The motions filed today augment Sun's existing suit, filed against Microsoft in October 1997. In the suit, which has not yet gone to trial, Sun claims that Microsoft, in deliberate violation of a licensing agreement with Sun, is attempting to break the cross-platform compatibility made possible by Java technology and to deliver a version of the technology that works only with Microsoft's products.

Calling the version of Java that is due to ship with Windows 98 "tainted code," Baratz today said Sun "only recently completed review of (Windows 98) code, and it is clear that Microsoft is continuing to seek ways to flout its contractual obligations."

The version of Java in Windows 98 contains changes made to the core code, which would mean that applications written with Microsoft software could be compiled by and run only on Microsoft software, Baratz said.

Sun is not attempting to stop the release of Windows 98, Baratz stressed. In the motions today, he said Sun asked the court to offer Microsoft, through an injunction, three alternative ways to live up to its contractual agreements with Sun:

  • Ship a version of Windows 98 with a "truly compatible version" of the Java source code

  • If Microsoft continues to ship a version of Windows 98 with an incompatible version of Java, make the company also ship Sun's version of Java with it

  • Remove any incompatible version of Java technology from Windows 98.

Microsoft could provide a version of Sun's Java by simply writing it onto the Windows 98 CDs, which could be done in 24 hours, Baratz indicated, in response to questions about whether Sun was trying to block Windows 98 from being released.

In a teleconference following Sun's announcement, Microsoft officials dismissed the motions as a publicity stunt too late to hold up Windows 98.

"There is no merit to Sun's motion for a preliminary injunction," said Tom Burt, associate general counsel for Microsoft, in a teleconference. "Microsoft is in compliance with Sun's (Java licensing) contract, and the timing appears intended to seize maximum publicity for Sun.

The eleventh-hour action is unlikely to prevent the operating system from shipping Friday in any case, because that would not allow time for a hearing at which Microsoft could present its case to the court -- something it is legally entitled to, Burt said.

On November 17, 1997, Sun filed a motion asking the court to bar Microsoft from using Sun's Java Compatible Logo on its products. It claimed the Java technology had been improperly modified by Microsoft and failed to pass Sun's compatibility tests.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte granted Sun's request on March 24, and issued a preliminary injunction that prevents Microsoft from using Sun's Java Compatible logo to promote and distribute its Internet Explorer 4.0 and related products that contain incompatible implementations of the Java platform.

This shows that Microsoft's contract with Sun allows the companies to ask the court to block the release of their products related to Java under certain conditions, Baratz said.

A Microsoft official earlier today claimed the contract forbids the companies from attempting to stop shipment of each other's products.