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MS permitted to ship ‘independently developed’ Java tools

But it can't infringe Sun's copyrights, source or specs.

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US District Judge Ronald Whyte yesterday ruled that Microsoft is allowed to create and ship independently developed Java technology, provided it does not violate Sun's copyrights, source code and specifications. The ruling follows the granting of a preliminary injunction granted last November forbidding Microsoft from shipping products that are not, according to Sun's definition, Java compatible. Microsoft appealed against that ruling early in December 1998. The preliminary injunction itself was granted by Judge Whyte in the San Jose District Court as part of Sun's breach-of-contract suit against Microsoft. The ruling, which was essentially a clarification of the preliminary injunction, allows Microsoft to continue to offer its Java development tools since they are not, claims MS, based on Sun source code. In its appeal, the company cited similar tools from other software vendors which also contain no Sun source yet are not banned from sale. However, the fact that Microsoft cannot infringe on Sun's specifications suggests that while the company can now offer its Java development tools they must, for the time being at least, pump out applets that meet Sun's definition of Java compatibility. The ruling may also help Microsoft decided on whether to push Cool, its C++ based object technology that's widely seen as a possible alternative to Java, at least on Windows (see Microsoft preps Cool to tool on Java). At the moment, claims Microsoft, Cool remains a research project, but could easily be expanded into a full-scale application development system that would offer both Java's simplicity and its level of object-orientation. That said, catching up with the degree of support Java has among the development community -- not to mention its level of cross-platform support -- might prove rather more difficult. ®

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