US Report: Java at heart of DOJ case, paper says

Java could be an integral part of the case the DOJ is building against Microsoft, according to the Seattle Times -- in yet another report suggesting antitrust action is imminent.

The paper, citing a person familiar with a draft of the suit, said officials at the U.S. Department of Justice are building their case in part around Microsoft's attempt to alter Java so that it only works with the Windows operating system. The Java programming language is designed to allow applications to run across many platforms, including non-Microsoft operating systems.

Sun Microsystems - the creator of Java - has already sued Microsoft over this issue. Sun won the first round in the case in March, when a judge ordered Microsoft to stop using a Java-compatible logo on its products because they are not compliant with Sun's version of Java.

Sun has received several civil subpoenas from the DOJ, but it would not comment on any recent action.

"Any smart person in the Justice Department -- and there are plenty of them-- should look at what we are doing with Microsoft on our own," said a spokeswoman. "When the speculation and rumours get this hot, you figure something's happening soon," she said, though she hastened to say she, too, was only speculating.

The Seattle paper also is reporting that the DOJ will concentrate on Microsoft's contracts with content providers and alleged business practices that force computer makers to display Windows on a PC's display when the machine is turned on.

The report comes amid mounting speculation that federal and state trustbusters are gearing up to file a major antitrust action against the software giant - and as Microsoft is conducting rallies and polls to stave off such action. Prosecutors are racing to beat Microsoft's mid-May deadline for shipping its upcoming Windows 98 operating system to computer makers.

Numerous reports by ZDNN sister organisation PC Week and others have pointed to a likely suit by the trustbusters. An upcoming issue of Business Week reinforces these, saying an expanded DOJ case will come within days. It also says that the DOJ wants to force Microsoft to alter Windows 98 and release a version without a browser. The DOJ already has won a similar battle related to its most recent suit against the company. In December, a judge ruled that the company must offer computer makers a version of its Windows 95 operating system without the browser. After much debate, Microsoft complied with the ruling, which it has appealed.

Microsoft has said repeatedly it has no plans to alter or delay Windows 98 - which integrates IE into the operating system to a greater extent than in Windows 95.

Microsoft officials were not available for comment at press time.

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