Microsoft on trial: Intel treads softly over Java

Intel executives appeared to wring their hands over the Java debate back when the language first gained momentum, threatening to unseat Microsoft's dominance in the operating system market.

Internal emails and memos, released during yesterday's proceedings in the Microsoft antitrust trial, paint a picture of Intel executives worrying about whether they should support the growing Java platform -- even as Microsoft urged them not to.

"They see this as supporting their mortal enemy... and argue Sun is our enemy as well," Intel executive Frank Gill wrote in an internal 1995 email summarising a meeting with Microsoft executive Paul Maritz. Microsoft rival Sun created Java and owns the rights to it.

The documents also show that Intel was hesitant to announce support for Java, even though it was working on the technology. In that same email, Gill writes that Intel "will not publicly endorse Java" because "this is BIG BIG DEAL to them."

According to another memo, this one from government witness and Intel executive Steven McGeady, Maritz planned to steer Intel away from Java and "convince us to spend our energies elsewhere."

Later memos show Intel executives seemingly caught between Microsoft and Sun, after learning that Microsoft is planning its own flavor of Java.

"We think they have not told Sun, and this may be an issue for Sun as well as us," Intel executive Alan Holzman wrote in an email following an April 1996 meeting about Java with Microsoft executives.

It goes on to say "when we give Sun the code, they will be astonished because it will be totally different than their source base and will have no shared code with any other implementation. Rather it will be Microsoft's architecture. How will Sun feel about this and our participation in this?"

The same memo also explains that Microsoft wants exclusive access to Intel's work on the Java Virtual Machine. According to the memo, "Netscape access to VM is VERY touch w/ MS!!!"

Sun has filed its own suit against Microsoft in US District Court in San Jose, California, accusing Microsoft of illegally tampering with Java.

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