Sun Sues Microsoft Over Java Implementation in IE4

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Of the million-plus copies of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4 that have been downloaded in the past week, we know at least a couple wenat to Sun Microsystems' JavaSoft division

At a press conference today, JavaSoft president Allan Baratz said the company has been testing the final version of IE4 to determine whether Microsoft is in full compliance with its licensing contract for Java. According to Baratz, Microsoft fails that test by refusing to ship with IE4 two key features of the Java Development Kit, or JDK version 1.1.x

"Rather than comply with its obligations under the contract, what Microsoft has done is embark on a deliberate course of conduct in an attempt to fragment the interfaces to Java, to break cross-platform compatibility, and to deliver a technology which some might think is Java but only works on Microsoft products," said Baratz.

Sun has asked a U.S. District Court in California to grant an injunction, preventing Microsoft from using the Java logo and shipping products containing noncompatible Java implementations.

Baratz said Sun hopes the suit will force Microsoft to bring its implementation of Java into compliance with the spec, and by so doing, will ensure programs written for Java on Windows will run on other platforms as well

"The Java brand has enormous value in the industry," Baratz went on to say. "When developers or end-users see the cup and steam and the word Java, they know they can expect certain things. To allow one company to so flagrantly violate the terms and conditions of the contract is a major disservice to the other 116 licensees."

Sun has also stated that it believes that Microsoft's implementation of Java is a "major disservice to the 700,000 programmers who believe in Java, and expect Java programs they write to run anywhere."

In a prepared statement, a Microsoft representative called Sun's claims "outrageous," and went on to say that "Sun has no ability to impact the shipment or deployment of Internet Explorer 4.0. Sun has apparently decided that [it] can't compete in the marketplace. We think the evidence will show that while Microsoft has fully complied with its agreement with Sun, Sun has repeatedly failed to live up to its contractual obligations to Microsoft."

Netscape's Communicator suite doesn't yet have full JDK 1.1 compatibility either. But according to Baratz, Netscape has stated that it is committed to including a fully compatible version of the JDK in its next release. Microsoft, he says, falsely claims that IE4 is already compatible.

Analysts say the ongoing feud between Sun and Microsoft is threatening the viability of Java.

Additional contributions by Yael Li-Ron

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