Microsoft starts to fix Java incompatibility

Microsoft says an upgrade to its Java virtual machine (JVM), posted at its Web site, supports Sun's Java Native Interface and therefore complies with a court order to make its Java products pass Sun Microsystems' compatibility tests. The ruling also stated, among other things, that Microsoft must revamp its Java tools so that default programming settings also meet Sun's specifications. The company hasn't done that yet but has 60 more days to do so.

Microsoft says an upgrade to its Java virtual machine (JVM), posted at its Web site, supports Sun’s Java Native Interface and therefore complies with a court order to make its Java products pass Sun Microsystems' compatibility tests.

A federal judge in San Jose, California, last month ruled that any Java-based products from Microsoft must comply with Sun’s specifications. Supporting Sun’s Java Native Interface fulfills that directive, Microsoft said.

The ruling also stated, among other things, that Microsoft must revamp its Java tools so that default programming settings also meet Sun’s specifications. The company hasn’t done that yet but has 60 more days to do so.

These moves “are one small step” in Sun’s larger battle with Microsoft, said Ron Rappaport, an analyst at Zona Research in California.

“I [won’t be] convinced that Sun has emerged victorious until [it] can get the court to tell Microsoft to take out its [Java] tools altogether” from the Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer browser, Rappaport said.

Microsoft also announced last week that it had stripped Java functionality from the Macintosh and Unix versions of its Web browser. Users of those operating systems will either use the Java features built in to the operating systems or get a JVM from another vendor. Mac OS has Java built in, and most Unix versions come with Java as well.

Sun sued Microsoft in October last year, saying that the changes Microsoft made to Java, to make it work better with Windows breached the contract between the two vendors.

“It’s very important that there be one Java platform and that everyone’s in compliance,” said Clifford Berg, chief technical officer at Digital Focus Inc., a Java developer in Chantilly, Virginia, that builds applications for Federal Express, MCI WorldCom and other corporate users.

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Microsoft’s Windows-specific modifications, Berg said, meant users had to be sure which platforms they would use — Windows or Unix, for example. “But you may want to change from one to the other. That decision should be divorced from application code,” he said.

Microsoft made its move at the same time Sun rolled out Java 2, an upgrade to the programming language. But Microsoft’s new JVM isn’t based on Java 2 because Sun has refused to ship the upgrade to Microsoft as their contract dispute wears on.

Both sides are expected to submit motions for summary judgment next month, asking the judge to decide the case before a full trial, a Sun spokeswoman said.

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