Java battle --- push finally comes to shove

Robert S. Thau (
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 15:22:07 -0500 (EST)

The feature from ZDnet included below (several paragraphs below) seems
to show that Sun and Microsoft are pretty nearly done dancing around
each other, and ready to come to blows --- in particular, the
president of JavaSoft is quoted as saying that:

1) Microsoft's current Java offerings are *already* in violation of
the license agreement giving Microsoft the rights to distribute
derivatives of Sun's Java technology.

2) JavaSoft believes that Microsoft is required by that license to
distribute all of the JDK 1.1 class set --- most critically, Java
Beans --- once they start distributing any of it. This, of course,
goes directly to the heart of the battle between the two companies,
which is (to repeat myself) not about whether Microsoft's private
distributed object embedding technologies (i.e. ActiveX) get onto
people's desktops, but whether Microsoft can keep the Java-based
competition (i.e., Java Beans) off.

Unfortunately, what Baratz *didn't* say, at least in this article, is
what JavaSoft has the right to do about the alleged violations, and
what its actual plans might be (beyond, of course, simply asking the
nice boys in Redmond to play fair). The two obvious strategies are
suing Microsoft to cease distribution of Java derivatives in violation
of the license, and trying to arrange an industry coalition which is
strong enough to force Java Beans down Microsoft's throat by sheer
competitive pressure.

Odds on the lawsuit depend on the exact terms of the license --- I
don't know if the thing has ever been publicly described in detail ---
but it strikes me, in my naive ignorance of these crucial facts, as a
potentially risky strategy. The risk is that Microsoft doesn't have
to actually win the lawsuit to prevail --- if they can just drag it
out for long enough, while distributing their mutant Java products in
the meantime (and, of course, getting good PR by describing themselves
as victims in the press), they can win a victory in the marketplace
which would make any verdict in the courts, when it finally arrives,
an irrelevancy. Indeed, Microsoft might well regard an ActiveX
monopoly as being worth a very substantial payoff to JavaSoft after
the fact.

(On the other hand, if JavaSoft can somehow wangle an injunction
against Microsoft from distributing mutant products at all while the
case is in the courts, then *Javasoft* wins --- Microsoft can't stop
distributing Java-compatible browsers, so they'll be forced to
distribute Java Beans as long as the case is in the courts,
establishing it as a de facto standard facility regardless of the
court's verdict. However, while injunctions like that are common in
patent cases, my impression is that they're an awful lot harder to get
when mere copyright is at issue. NB that that patent that JavaSoft
has on the -quick JVM opcodes would not apply to a JIT VM such as
Microsoft's latest offering...).

As to the industry coaltion, I can hear the collective readership of
FoRK sneering in unison, "yeah, right". Half of me, at least, reacts
the same way, but the sentimental part of me reminds that half that
Sun has already done it once by getting Microsoft to ship Java in
*any* form.

One final note --- buried towards the bottom, we see one of those neat
switcheroos that earn Microsoft PR flacks the big bucks. If you
remember that big "100% pure Java" show Sun put on last week in which
100+ companies endorsed the JDK 1.1 technologies, you probably also
remember that Microsoft justified their highly visible absence by
claiming that they hadn't been invited. They don't claim that
anymore. The new claim is that they "did not have sufficient time to
make a decision about participating". Which is completely accurate,
as far as it goes. Somewhere in Redmond, the invitation sits, with a
pencilled scribble upon it: "When hell freezes over".


Article follows...

Java Rivals Digging In

By Michael Moeller
December 13, 1996 06:00:16 PM EST
PC Week Online

NEW YORK-JavaSoft has drawn
a line in the Internet sand, and
Microsoft Corp. is ready to cross

Microsoft's Java Software
Development Kit violates the
licensing agreement it signed for
the Java language, JavaSoft
President Alan Baratz said in an
interview at Internet World here.

The license allows vendors to
embed Java Virtual Machine in
products but does not allow them
to redistribute the technology as a
separate product. "[Microsoft's
Java SDK] is nothing more than a
vehicle for delivering a
stand-alone Java VM," Baratz
said. "That's not covered by the
licensing agreement."

Baratz praised much of the work
Microsoft has done with its Java
development to date and said he
expects Microsoft to comply with
the licensing terms. "They have
said they intend to live up to the
letter and spirit of the agreement,"
he said. "I don't have a reason to
believe otherwise at this point in

But Baratz strongly implied that
Microsoft must remove the
offending SDK code from its
World Wide Web site-or face the
consequences. He declined to say
what those consequences would

"[Microsoft is] not going to be
delivering stand-alone VMs. They
are not going to deliver VMs to
ISVs for them to integrate in their
applications," he said.

Microsoft, however, has no plans
to remove the SDK from its Web
site, said Bob Muglia, the
Redmond, Wash., company's vice
president of developer tools and
server software.

"We feel very comfortable that we
are in no way violating the
licensing agreement with the
SDK," Muglia said. "We are trying
to give the best implementation of
Java. We are going to continue to
enhance it."

The dispute over the SDK is the
most contentious part of a
broader disagreement over
Microsoft's plans to distribute
Java technology to developers.
Another potential trouble spot
could be Microsoft's support of
JavaSoft's JDK (Java
Development Kit) 1.1, which is in
beta testing now.

Microsoft officials have said in the
past that the company will
evaluate JDK 1.1 when it comes
out and will implement selected
parts in its core products, such as
Internet Explorer. But the
company will not support JDK 1.1
technologies that duplicate work
already done by Microsoft.

Baratz countered that Microsoft
does not have the right to pick
and choose what part of JDK 1.1
it will support in its core product

"Where there are duplicate
technologies, more than likely,
Microsoft will have to deliver two
solutions," said Baratz. "But can
they post whatever they like or
don't like on a Web site? No."

Muglia said Microsoft will make
available everything that is
required to be part of the Java
platform-but he maintained that
the company makes its own
decisions about what goes in its

"We are going to make sure
everything that is going to be part
of JDK 1.1 will be available to
developers," he said. "How
technologies are packaged is our
decision and no one else's."

Attempting to show a unified front
behind the Java language,
JavaSoft rolled out at Internet
World a new branding campaign
called "100% Pure Java."

It touted more than 100
supporters for the campaign,
which will involve certifying
applications created fully in Java.
Among the supporters were
Netscape Communications Corp.,
Oracle Corp., Apple Computer
Inc. and IBM.

Microsoft, however, was absent
from the press conference.
Although Baratz said he invited
Microsoft to be in the press
announcement, Microsoft officials
said they did not have sufficient
time to make a decision about

As JavaSoft and Microsoft
escalate their war of words over
licensing agreements and
strategy, users are concerned
over the potential fragmentation of
the Java language.

"This is causing us to give a lot of
thought about how we use Java,"
said Neil Fox, manager of
advanced development and
applied technologies at TRW Inc.,
in Cleveland. "We can't afford to
have Java compatibility problems."