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Calling any pact forged between Sun Microsystems and Microsoft an "agreement" is always a stretch, but that is how the two vendors are describing a decision to extend support for Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine through September of next year.

Microsoft had planned to call it quits and end support for the MSJVM by year end. But now both Microsoft and Sun are saying it's in customers' best interests to keep support plugging along for a little longer. In particular, Microsoft could avoid some nasty security snafus by keeping a close eye on the MSJVM as customers move away from the product.

"Industry-wide replacement of the MSJVM may be a significant undertaking," said Rich Green, vice president of developer platforms at Sun. "This agreement gives customers who require it more time to make the transition, with assurance that Microsoft will continue repairing any critical concerns in the MSJVM while the transition is underway."

Any IT watcher not in a coma for the last few years knows that Sun and Microsoft largely despise each other and one of the main sources of their shared venom is Java. Sun has long alleged that Microsoft distributed a tainted version of the JVM to try and undermine Sun's Java aspirations. Sun came out the victor in a 2001 settlement that limited Microsoft's JVM use, and then Microsoft promptly pulled Java from Windows.

In many ways, Microsoft's support of Java has become a bit of a moot point with most of the major PC vendors now agreeing to ship Sun's JVM with their kit. Sun, however, is still seeking $1 billion in damages from Microsoft for past actions.

In any case, the "agreement" at hand between Sun and Microsoft should give customers some extra time to update their JVMs.

Microsoft claims, in part, that it is taking this action because it's in their customers' best interests. This seems like quite a line to swallow after Microsoft pulled the popular software out of its OS. leaving many Web sites a tad disabled. No doubt, the company really wants to avoid any more publicity surrounding its lack of security excellence. ®

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