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Microsoft Java plan tempts fresh Sun legal action

Does just switching it off, and letting the developers switch it back on, count as compliance?

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Microsoft may be heading for more trouble with the courts over the route it proposes to take to 'remove' its Java 'enhancements' from Windows 98. Rather than take them out and ship Sun Java, the company is going to switch them off and allow developers to switch them back on if they want. A US judge last week granted a preliminary injunction to Sun ordering Microsoft to start shipping Sun Java and stop shipping its own within 90 days, but Microsoft's minimalist interpretation of compliance could trigger a repeat of last year's wrangle over the injunction ordering it to dis-integrate IE from Windows 95. Before that one was overturned, Microsoft was facing the prospect of hefty daily fines for contempt of court. In a combative press release on Friday, Microsoft sales and support VP Jeff Raikes said the company sees "little or no impact" from the ruling by Judge Whyte that Microsoft must include Sun's Java Native Interface in Windows 98. Microsoft said that it would not remove any of its technology, but would modify VJ++6.0 (yes, version 6 but don't look for too many earlier versions in Microsoft's software museum). In effect, it would make the product look like a cigarette packet warning to developers. "Legal notice: by choosing Microsoft's enhancements [sic] you will be writing an application that may only run on Windows". To get around the preliminary injunction, developers will have to choose affirmatively to turn on Microsoft's "enhancements". It will be very interesting to see if affirmation takes one click and denial two clicks, and whether Sun challenges such a procedure as a contempt of the judge's Order. Microsoft says it is planning Web site patches and a service pack for those who wish to modify their software. Microsoft spokesman Greg Shaw said on Wednesday that Microsoft planned to appeal the preliminary injunction, but by Friday there was a different story at Fort Redmond. Tom Burt, Microsoft's associate general counsel said that Microsoft had 30 days to file any appeal and had not yet decided whether to do so. Microsoft VP Paul Maritz also floated the possibility that Microsoft would produce its own "clean room" version of Java that excluded any Sun technology. In the meantime, Sun's official version will be used. All in all, the most unpleasant aspect for Microsoft has been its loss of face to its most determined rival. Sun will be asking for the preliminary order to be made permanent, and is seeking as-yet unspecified damages. Curiously, Sun has had to put up a $15 million bond in case the final ruling reverses the preliminary one, but Judge Whyte is unlikely to overturn his own ruling that Microsoft had violated the terms of the licensing agreement for Java. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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