Microsoft investigates Java substitute

Microsoft has asked a US district court to clarify whether it can distribute 'independently developed' Java products that would not be subject to Sun Microsystems' Java compatibility tests. The request for clarification relates to a preliminary injunction ordering Microsoft to make changes to products that use Java so that they will pass Sun's compatibility tests. But the judge did not rule on the matter and gave no indication when he would do so.

Microsoft has asked a US district court to clarify whether it can distribute "independently developed" Java products that would not be subject to Sun Microsystems' Java compatibility tests.

The request for clarification relates to a preliminary injunction awarded against Microsoft Nov. 17 in its ongoing lawsuit with Sun in the US District Court in San Jose, California. Sun charges that Microsoft breached a Java licensing contract between the companies by distributing incompatible Java products.

In the preliminary injunction, Judge Ronald Whyte said Sun is likely to win its case based on the merits, and ordered Microsoft to make changes to products that use Java so that they will pass Sun's compatibility tests. They include Windows 98, Internet Explorer and various Java development tools.

While Microsoft moves to comply with the order, it asked the court to make clear whether the preliminary injunction permits it to develop products that offer the same "features and functionality" as Java products but are built without using any of Sun's Java source code, said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan.

"We're not saying that that's something we intend to do, we just want to know if it's an option," he said.

Judge Whyte did not rule on the matter and gave no indication when he would do so, Cullinan said.

A Sun representative said this morning's hearing involved a high-level, sometimes confusing technical discussion about exactly what Microsoft wants to do.

"Sun's position was that Microsoft is trying to circumvent the order of the court, and (Microsoft) wasn't very clear about what they mean by 'independent work,' " said Sun spokeswoman Lisa Poulson.

Judge Whyte also asked the two sides to redouble their efforts to come to an out of court settlement over their dispute, Microsoft's Cullinan said. He also heard arguments from lawyers representing media outlets who urged the judge to make more of the filings in the case available for public viewing.

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