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MS to pull Java in 2004 – why you knew this already

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Microsoft, you may have heard from many sources in the past couple of days, is to stop shipping Java in 2004. Shocking, eh? But you've known that for well over a year, really.

We at The Register are now sufficiently browned-off with termination of Java stories that we feel moved to make a public service announcement, explaining why it really oughtn't to be news to anybody. According to the terms of the Sun-Microsoft Java settlement of 23rd January 2001, which you will find here, Sun grants to Microsoft "A limited license under Sun’s Intellectual Property Rights, during the period ending January 2, 2008, to continue to distribute without modification in currently shipping commercial products, all as listed on Exhibit D attached, the JDK 1.1.4-level binary implementations identified in Exhibit E attached..." etc etc. A bunch of stuff anyway, the gist of which is that features and functionality are frozen at the level of the Win2k first commercial release, and the 2008 date explains why this was described as a "seven year" deal.

However, Sun also grants "a limited license under Sun’s Intellectual Property Rights, during the period ending January 2, 2004, to use Sun’s JDK 1.1.4- level source code, for Microsoft’s internal use only, for the sole purpose of making such limited modifications to the JDK 1.1.4-level binary implementations licensed herein under paragraphs 6(a), 6(b) or 6(c) as are necessary to correct only Critical Customer Defects or Security Holes." Which is what Microsoft said to justify termination in 2004 just the other day. Insofar as source access is necessary to plug security holes, Microsoft will not be licensed to plug them after 2004.

It could still ship the stuff though, couldn't it? Well, we also have "a limited license under Sun’s Intellectual Property Rights, during the period ending January 2, 2004, to incorporate the JDK 1.1.4-level binary implementations licensed under paragraphs 6(a) or 6(b) above in successor versions of the products identified in Exhibit D." Exhibit D's product list is still sadly awaiting update, you'll note if you're reading the document (pull your socks up, MS legal), but you get the gist. Microsoft can't incorporate it in "successor versions" from 2004, and anyway that might be tricky with source access.

The document is shot through with licence terminations on 2nd January 2004, to the extent that we feel sure Microsoft would need a large and extremely perverse team of lawyers to argue the case if it wanted to persist beyond that date. And why bother?

The intent of the less popular 2008 date, it would seem to us, is to preserve some legacy access for older systems. Otherwise, the agreement pretty clearly removes Microsoft's ability to ship it with new products in 2004. OK? Oh, and by the way, if MS legal for some reason didn't get that product list to Sun by early March of last year, it doesn't have any licences anyway. I'd check that if I were you, Scott... ®

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