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Cloner to make MS Java available to all platforms

Which would however appear to be subtly different from making it open source...

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More information is emerging about Microsoft's deal with Java cloner Transvirtual Technologies. At JavaOne today in San Francisco Transvirtual is due to show a new version of its product, Kaffe, which can run Microsoft's Java extensions as well as Sun Java. Transvirtual would seem to have been paid by Microsoft to develop the latest variant, which complicates matters seriously. Microsoft is currently held by the judge in the Sun-Microsoft litigation to have breached Sun's Java copyright, but to have the right to clone Java. Transvirtual has already done the cloning, so Kaffe theoretically will allow Microsoft to carry on from where it was. Transvirtual has however made quite a bit of noise about making Java open source, so there are at least likely to be philosophical problems with its arrangement with Microsoft. More complicated still, Transvirtual also produces a 'custom edition' of Kaffe which is 'de-GPLed,' and is for licensing to companies who don't want to put GPL code in their products. Microsoft might fall into this category, but... Transvirtual CEO Tim Wilkinson says that the intent is to allow Microsoft code, which was designed by Microsoft as Windows-specific, to run on all platforms. Microsoft has helped Transvirtual implement its extensions, but not to the extent of giving it the source or putting the source in the public domain. We therefore have some kind of halfway house looming here. The next interesting question is, what is Microsoft going to do with Kaffe, if anything? The company's previous Java bolthole was HP, but Transvirtual will be showing Kaffe running on CE (previously HP's manor), and Itsy (don't they get everywhere?). So Microsoft is quite possibly switching. The blurry nature of the whole deal is understandable, in light of the court case. Microsoft knows what it's allowed to do at the moment (although some of the restrictions are 'non-binding'), but it can't be sure what it'll be allowed to do once the case is over. The outcome could be anything from MS being allowed to carry on as before (unlikely) to being forced to dump the entire "grow polluted Java" (see trial coverage) strategy. So retaining the option of chucking the whole lot into the public domain might be smart, while over-reacting by going open source now wouldn't be. But there are some possible snags to the Transvirtual route, according to our informants. Says one: "Kaffe just doesn't cut it as a Java implementation. It's incomplete, buggy, and slow. That doesn't mean it's unusable, but it won't displace the Sun or IBM VMs any time soon, or at all without massive investment." Transvirtual, he says, is a company being squeezed by bigger and better competitors who're giving their products away. That would suggest the MS bankrolling will have been welcome for the it as a hook. It quite possibly also suggests that the hook is attached to a reel of something. MS could buy the whole shooting match, and then plough resources (and the other stuff, but we won't talk about that today) into making it a serious competitor. Heard that somewhere before? ®

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