Java standards glitch may open door for Microsoft

Sun, ECMA have a falling out

Sun Microsystems has until December 1 to inform ECMA whether it wants to continue working with ECMA to standardise Java. ECMA is an international industry association based in Europe and is Sun's current route for making Java an international standard.

However, Sun is withholding its 8400-page Java specification from ECMA because ECMA will not allow Sun to maintain its copyright through the standards process. Sun has accused Microsoft, an ECMA member, of violating Sun's copyright in US District Court, and is hoping for reinstatement of a preliminary injunction against Microsoft based on that accusation. Sun General Counsel Mike Morris said he expects US District Judge Ronald Whyte to rule on the injunction, which would require Microsoft products to comply with Sun's Java, by the end of the month.

After a tough fight against Microsoft, Intel and several other US companies, Sun in 1997 became the first commercial company to be named as a Publicly Approved Submitter of an international standard, allowing Java to be submitted on a fast track. However, Sun abruptly set aside its PAS plans last spring after discovering that its PAS status would expire this month. Shortly after, ECMA agreed to take up Sun's Java standards work and submit Java to ISO on a fast track for Sun.

ECMA Thursday presented a resolution to Sun. The ECMA Coordinating Committee expects Sun to submit a specification that ECMA and its members can change, combine with other submissions, and make freely available to the public. ECMA General Secretary Jan van den Beld said Sun's objections about copyright are new.

ECMA's resolution said Sun can submit Java to ECMA or allow ECMA to proceed based on submissions by other ECMA members. Sun can also ask that ECMA's Technical Committee 41, which was established to create a Java standard, be disbanded. The ECMA General Assembly will take final action in December.

In an interview last week, Sun VP Jon Kannegaard said Sun and ECMA officials are in talks. However, he said Sun will do everything it can to protect Java compatibility because it has fought so hard to establish the Java brand. Kannegaard said he does not know what Sun will do about standardising Java if it cannot continue working through ECMA.

Microsoft officials vowed to submit "improvements" to Java when ECMA took over the Java standards work but declined to be interviewed.

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