Microsoft's tussle with Sun

Microsoft takes competition seriously, as its team of watchers on Sun demonstrates. Oracle is embarking on a 'Java's not dead' tour next week, in the face of anti-Java propaganda that they say comes from Microsoft.

Oracle Corp. executives are embarking on a "Java's not dead" tour next week. And Oracle is crediting Microsoft with creating the need for the road show. An Oracle spokeswoman declined to offer specifics, but she said that in the face of anti-Java propaganda generated by Microsoft, Oracle decided to educate people about the benefits of XML and Java.

Oracle isn't the only one calling foul. Developers participating in a number of Java user groups also have been swapping stories about misinformation that they said is being spread by Microsoft. Rumors have been circulating among e-integrators and Microsoft partners that Sun has ceased all development on client-side Java, a claim that Sun denies.

Microsoft, for its part, did not respond by press time.

But no one would dispute charges that Microsoft is a fierce competitor. Its hardball tactics are at the heart of a number of legal cases over the past few years. In fact, there are a number of different teams throughout the company whose primary mission is to study and take on the competition.

Microsoft group product manager Doug Miller leads one such team—designated the competition and interoperability strategies unit within Microsoft's IT infrastructure and hosting solutions group. Miller and his colleagues market Microsoft's NT/Windows 2000 add-on Services For Unix product, as well as its comparable Services for NetWare.

But more importantly, Miller & Co. spend much of their time and energy watching Unix vendors, Linux vendors and Novell, all players that go head-to-head with Microsoft in the server OS space. They research competitive products and strategies; attend and participate in trade shows sponsored by other organizations and vendors; test-drive tools and OSes, including Linux;. and help craft strategies for combating rivals.

"We probably have more Linux users internally at Microsoft than almost anyone else does anywhere else," Miller boasts. "The best way to know a product is to run it."

"We take Linux very seriously," Miller continues. But so far, at least, Microsoft hasn't seen enough customer demand on the client side to merit porting its Office suite to Linux, he says.

Miller, who headed SunSoft's European operations eight years ago, was CEO of Softway Systems, bought by Microsoft in September 1999.

At one point recently, Microsoft had 80 people watching Sun, Miller says. Competitive positioning clearly is not something to be taken lightly.