US Report: MS claims Java is a 'double' standard

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday moved to discredit Sun Microsystems Inc.
Written by Will Rodger, Contributor

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday moved to discredit Sun Microsystems Inc.'s stewardship of the Java programming technology by alleging the language is a "double standard, not an open standard," used to punish companies unfriendly to Sun and reward those allied with it.

Although antitrust officials claim Microsoft wrote a Windows-only version of Java to kill the technology, the company maintains its version is simply an improvement that runs better on its operating system. Wednesday's accusations here in federal court were an effort to support that claim.

For their part, Sun officials downplayed the accusations, saying Microsoft was blowing out of proportion a relatively minor glitch in Sun's relationship with Netscape Communications Corp.

Netscape on the hot seat

Documents submitted in court Wednesday showed some Sun officials were irate with Netscape's failure to deliver on its promises. One exchange over a delay in joint licensing of JavaScript -- a technology actually unrelated to Java itself -- was particularly vitriolic.

"This episode illustrates why I think throwing our lot back with Netscape is foolish," Sun Vice President Jon Kannegaard wrote to Eric Schmidt, then the company's chief technical officer. "They are completely untrustworthy. No agreement with Netscape is worth the ink it's written with. Go sign a deal with Saddam Hussein. It has a better chance of being honored." In an April 1997 internal e-mail, Eric Schmidt told Richard Nice that Netscape would be late with its implementation of the JNI (Java Native Interface), a technology that lets Java applications call on services of specific computer operating systems when Java alone cannot handle the task the programmer wants it to perform. Although Netscape later supported JNI for Windows 95, it failed to do likewise with Windows 3.1, the Macintosh and Unix. On the stand, Sun Vice President and Java co-inventor James Gosling was grilled by Microsoft attorney Tom Burt about his company's relationship with Netscape. On the one hand, Netscape had failed to support JNI for old versions of Windows, the MacOS and Unix, but Sun still worked with the company. On the other hand, Microsoft never supported JNI in its browsers, and Sun slapped it with a copyright infringement suit just weeks later.

Wasn't this inconsistent? Hardly, Gosling replied. If anything, it reflected the difference in the fundamental relationships. In Netscape's case, the company had serious staffing problems directly due to Microsoft's decision to give away its browser. That decision, he said, destroyed a $600 million revenue stream for Netscape, which had previously been able to charge for its browser. What's more, he said, Netscape continued to fill in the gaps left by the non-Windows 95 browsers. Microsoft, by contrast, simply refused to comply, he said.

Farber cross-examination complete

Earlier in the day, Microsoft and government attorneys concluded their examination of David Farber, a University of Pennsylvania professor who testified that Microsoft conferred no benefits and considerable problems upon consumers when it bundled its browser with its operating system.

Farber testified that the Microsoft browser in Windows 98 interfered with the normal functioning of Netscape's Navigator. In many cases, he said, IE just kept "popping up" in places he never expected it to, even though he had already installed Navigator. "That is very disturbing, even to an expert," he said. "It tells me it ain't a very nice world for people who sell Netscape."

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