MS/DOJ: Sun rebuffed MS Java offers

Despite Microsoft's repeated attempts to work with Sun Microsystems to develop common interfaces to work with Java, Sun rebuffed those attempts but solicited 11 other technology companies to work jointly on those same interfaces. A US government witness in Microsoft's antitrust trial says Sun chose to reject Microsoft's attempts because the software giant "displayed no interest in working on cross-platform issues" and instead wanted to promote only those interfaces that worked well with Windows.

Despite Microsoft's repeated attempts to work with Sun Microsystems to develop common interfaces to work with the Java programming language, Sun rebuffed those attempts but solicited 11 other technology companies to work jointly on those same interfaces, according to e-mail from those companies.

A US government witness in Microsoft's antitrust trial said the reason Sun chose to reject Microsoft's attempts was because the software giant “displayed no interest in working on cross-platform issues” and instead wanted to promote only those interfaces that worked well with its Windows operating system.

“Microsoft said they weren't interested in doing anything with cross-platform design,” testified James Gosling, creator of Java and a vice president of Sun. “We have no interest in locking out other platforms…. Where we drew the line was where that work blocked our work on other platforms.”

Gosling, who returned to the witness stand yesterday after another government witness testified due to scheduling conflicts, was confronted with numerous e-mail from Sun and Microsoft in which discussions over the development of several Java interfaces was discussed. One of those interfaces dealt with native methods, in other words the parts of Java that communicate with an operating system's unique qualities. Another dealt with “debugging” interfaces, which a Microsoft official described as the interfaces used by programmers for diagnostic capabilities.

“For months, we attempted to work cooperatively with Sun,” Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said outside the courtroom. “But they blew us off.”

The evidence was part of a pattern that Microsoft has used to show that its rivals have often worked together to challenge Microsoft in the marketplace. Prior to the testimony about the interfaces, Microsoft Corporate Attorney Tom Burt introduced several agreements between Sun, Netscape Communications and IBM to work on Java-related projects together. Representatives from all three companies have testified at the trial against Microsoft.

Microsoft sought to portray Sun as holding Microsoft to a different standard than a number of its rivals, primarily Netscape, which competes with Microsoft on Web browsing software.

Sun found that Microsoft was not in compliance with its Java licensing agreement because Microsoft refused to incorporate its Java native interface, but, at the same time, Netscape never incorporated that interface either. In one heated e-mail from Sun's Jon Kannegaard to the company's then Chief Technology Officer Eric Schmidt (Schmidt is now CEO of Novell) in September 1996, Netscape is berated for not living up to its promise to incorporate that interface. “No agreement with Netscape is worth the ink it's written with,” the e-mail states. “Go sign a deal with Saddam Hussein. It has a better chance of being honored.”

But two years later, Netscape still hasn't adopted those interfaces. “They were having engineering and financial setbacks,” Gosling explained. “Their business was troubled…. They kept promising and we were being forgiving of their difficulties.”

Gosling continues his cross-examination tomorrow. Microsoft's Corporate Attorney Burt told U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that he expects to conclude it by lunchtime, when a government lawyer will have his first opportunity to question Gosling in public.

Gosling testified in a 35-page written statement that Microsoft set out to destroy the programming language's cross-platform compatibility to eliminate it as a threat to the Windows operating system.

"If Microsoft successfully fragments the Java technology, the cross-platform benefits to vendors, developers, and users of the Java technology will be damaged, and any threat the Java technology poses to Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system will be neutralised," wrote Gosling, who developed Java in 1991.

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