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Microsoft sought to pollute Java, maybe Sun let it

Sun's evidence indicates Microsoft cynically attempted to fragment Java, Microsoft's that Sun messed-up and let it

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John Warner, Microsoft lead attorney in the DoJ antitrust case, claimed on Tuesday (see We don't have to be polite) that there was "no code of civility in business". Emails unsealed yesterday in the Sun lawsuit against Microsoft illustrate this amply, and suggest a possible verdict of 'nasty but legal' on Microsoft's conduct. There are emails from both Sun and Microsoft, but both tend to favour the interpretation that Microsoft did want to destabilise Java, that it set out to strike a licensing deal that allowed it to do so, and that Sun, dozily, let it. David Spenhoff, Sun's director of marketing, wrote in an email produced by Microsoft: "Microsoft was smarter than us when we did the contract... What I find most annoying is that no one at Sun saw this coming. I don't think our folks who negotiated and agreed to these terms understood at the time what they meant." This reinforces Sun internal memos released earlier where Sun managers were claiming that from their reading of the licence agreement, Microsoft was perfectly right. Microsoft claims that the licence gives it the right to enhance/change Java, and it's been doing so by adding Windows-specific features that, when used, mean it won't run on other platforms. If Microsoft gets away with this, Sun's 'write once, run anywhere' Java strategy stands in severe peril -- which is why Sun is suing. It seems abundantly clear from the latest Microsoft unsealed memos that Gates' company's motives were nefarious. But this lawsuit is about the text of the licence agreement, not antitrust. Similarly the argument over the DoJ preliminary injunction forcing Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows 95 (which Microsoft eventually won) was about the text, not antitrust. Ben Slivka, who was managing Microsoft's Java strategy, wrote to Gates in plain terms. He wanted to know if Gates' concerns included how control of Java could be wrested away from Sun, and "How we turn Java into just the latest, best way to write Windows applications?" In the same vein, one of the Sun motions unsealed yesterday quotes a Microsoft pricing proposal as saying the company would "kill cross-platform Java by growing the polluted Java market". There you go, Microsoft Java programmers, you're "polluted". Sun's attempts to show that Microsoft's motives in entering the licence agreement were not of the highest are of course irrelevant to the lawsuit, and so are Microsoft's attempts to besmirch Sun. But they're still interesting reading. Microsoft produced a note of a meeting attended by Eric Schmidt, then Sun chief technology officer and now Novell CEO, where Schmidt outlined plans to evolve Java into an OS that would compete with Windows. Under Schmidt, Novell is now heavily committed to Java -- it wouldn't be at all surprising if Schmidt was now planning a similar evolution under a different corporate banner. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories

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