won a key victory in its antitrustsuit against rival Microsoft
Monday, when a federal
judge issued a preliminary injunction that requires the Redmond, Wash.-based
software titan to include a Java Virtual Machine, or JVM
its Windows XP operating system.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based networking giant filed suit against Microsoft in
the United States District Court in San Jose in March, citing the company’s
“monopoly position” Microsoft’s failure to support Java in Windows XP. Sun
asked for more than $1 billion in damages and that Microsoft be required to
distribute Sun’s current binary implementation of the Java plug-in as part
of Windows XP and Internet Explorer.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, based in Baltimore, said
he would approve Sun’s request for a preliminary injunction requiring
Microsoft to support Java though he said he would first work out the details
with both companies’ lawyers.
In his opinion, Motz indicated that he was likely to resolve the case with
the “elegantly simple remedy” of requiring Microsoft’s support of Java.
“I further find it is an absolute certainty that unless a preliminary
injunction is entered, Sun will have lost forever its right to compete, and
the opportunity to prevail, in a market undistorted by its competitor’s
antitrust violations,” Motz wrote.
“In the final analysis, the public interest in this case rests in assuring
that free enterprise be genuinely free, untainted by the effects of
antitrust violations,” Motz said. He added, “Competition is not only about
winning the prize; its deeper value lies in giving all those who choose to
compete an opportunity to demonstrate their worth.”
He also wrote, “Microsoft has succeeded, through its antitrust violations,
in creating an environment in which the distribution of Java on PCs is
chaotic. The ‘must-carry’ remedy Sun proposes is designed to prevent
Microsoft from obtaining future advantage from its past wrongs and to
correct distortions in the marketplace that its violations of antitrust laws
When the injunction takes effect, it will hold force while the case works
its way through trial or settlement. A Microsoft spokesperson issued the following statement to internetnews.com: “We are disappointed with today’s ruling and still need to review the details of the Court’s decision. After our initial review, we do intend
to appeal this injunction and will ask the Appeals Court to hear it on an expedited basis.”
Sun victorious… or not
Sun positioned the ruling a a key victory in a press statement. Mike Morris, Sun vice president and special counsel, said: “This decision is a huge victory for consumers who will have the best, latest Java technology on their PCs, and it is a victory for
software developers who will write applications to run on those PCs. The
decision helps ensure that current, compatible Java technology will be
included on every consumer desktop and put an end to Microsoft’s practice of
fragmenting the Java platform.
“This decision changes the dynamics of the distribution channel for the Java
technology. It’s a victory for the Java Community, including developers,
consumers and system vendors. Sun and its partners are working to make the
best and latest Java technology available worldwide to anyone who wants it –
“The preliminary injunctions we sought are intended to temporarily address
some of the damage that Microsoft has inflicted until a full trial can be
conducted. The full trial will include this and all of the other antitrust
claims that Sun has brought against Microsoft.”
Despite what Sun poses as a major coup, one analyst isn’t buying it.
ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg, who covers the XML and Web services industry, told internetnews.com the ruling is little more than a Pyrrhic victory for Sun and that the battle lies elsewhere on the Web services front.
“Sun has been trying to frame this battle as .NET vs. Java, and the judge has gone along with this perspective, but for Microsoft, the presence of the JVM on desktops
has little effect on their plans for .NET. Sun apparently thinks that once desktops have the latest version of the JVM, then people will rush out to build Java-based Web Services. The fact of the matter is, desktop users (i.e., typical business users)
aren’t writing anything in Java. Business users run applications, and
they don’t really care what language or virtual machine they are running
on top of. As business users begin to run Web Services on their desktops
(a trend we see picking up in 2003), they will do so via their desktop
Bloomberg continued: “So where does that leave Sun? Fighting the wrong battles, as has been their pattern of late. .NET leverages the power of XML Web Services to
provide heterogeneous interoperability among systems, enabling Microsoft
to compete on the basis of functionality and interoperability — a
solid, rational product strategy for them. Sun, however, wants to make
it easier for Java developers to write Java apps for the desktop — a
small, relatively irrelevant eddy on the side of the IT river.”
Roots of the dispute
This is the second time around for Microsoft and Sun on this particular
issue. In January 2001, Microsoft settled the original suit brought by Sun to the tune of $20 million. Sun initiated
that lawsuit in 1997. It stemmed from an agreement the two companies made in
1996, when Microsoft obtained a license from Sun to use the Java technology,
with the stipulation that Microsoft would deliver only compatible
implementations of the technology.
Following the agreement, Microsoft used the Java Development Kit (JDK)
1.1.4, a version that had long been superceded, thus ensuring Windows-only
compatibility. Sun argued that by making its Java implementation
Windows-only, Microsoft violated the terms of the license.
As part of the settlement, Sun gave Microsoft the right to continue using
the outdated JDK for seven years, though Microsoft made no commitment to do
As a result, in July 2001, Microsoft decided not to include a JVM in Windows XP.
“It comes down to the settlement agreement,” Yankee Group Analyst Neal
Goldman said at the time. “On the one hand, you could say, ‘gee, Microsoft
is attempting to keep people from using Java on Windows and this is sort of
an exclusionary tactic.’ I think that’s probably not true. Because of the
settlement agreement with Sun, they can’t ship current or new versions of
Java. If my choices were to ship nothing or an old version, I would ship
That was the tack Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla took when explaining
Microsoft’s decision in July 2001.
Pilla said at the time that making the Microsoft JVM downloadable rather
than shipping it with Windows XP helped the company abide by the terms of
its settlement with Sun.
“We’re still supporting our JVM,” Pilla said. “We’re just not going to
include the JVM in XP…Everyone that wants Java support in Windows XP will
Pilla also noted, “PC manufacturers are free to install the Microsoft JVM
before they ship.” He added that IT managers will also be able to make the
decision to install the JVM on computers, and that anyone who upgrades to XP
from a previous Windows operating system will retain their Microsoft JVM.
Microsoft also noted at the time that if Windows XP users came upon sites
that required Java, Internet Explorer would ask the users if they wished to
download a JVM. Microsoft later changed its position, deciding to include a
JVM in a Windows XP update until 2004, after which it would drop it.