Already hit with high-profile bugs and US government attorneys, Microsoft 's Windows 98 platform is facing a new threat from Sun Microsystems, which has asked the courts to review the operating system's Java implementation.
According to Alan Baratz, president of Sun's Java software division, if the preliminary injunction filed with the US district court in San Jose, California, earlier this month is ultimately successful, Microsoft will either have to ship Windows 98 with a fully compatible version of Java, bundle it with Sun's own Java tools, or simply remove its "tainted" version of Java altogether.
"We are not seeking an injunction to stop the shipment of Windows 98. We are simply seeking to ensure that if Windows 98 includes any implementation of the Java platform, that it include a fully compatible version," Baratz insisted. "We're asking the court to ensure that ... software programmers and developers have access from Microsoft to a compatible implementation of the Java technology."
In addition, Sun says Microsoft's Java tools should be allowed to ship only if they create "fully compatible" Java applications.
Sun won another legal dispute with Microsoft, preventing the operating system vendor from using Sun's Java compatible logo on Microsoft's implementations of the Java platform. Representatives at Microsoft, however, say they have honoured their Java licensing contract with Sun from day one and insist their Java implementation and tools are fully compatible. They accuse Sun of taking advantage of a prime marketing opportunity.
"The timing of today's announcement appears to be intended to seize maximum publicity, and not oriented toward achieving any justified legal relief," said Tom Burt, Microsoft's associate general counsel.
Although he had not yet seen the details of Sun's accusations, based on what he had heard, Sun is mistaken, Burt said. "There is no merit at all to Sun's preliminary injunction motion. Microsoft is in compliance with its contract with Sun, and we will establish that in court."
He also stressed that the motions - filed only three days before the scheduled release of Windows 98 to PC manufacturers -- will have no impact on Microsoft's shipping date.
Defending their timing, Sun spokespeople explained that they only recently completed a review of the Windows 98 Java code, which Microsoft was forced to submit to them by the US Department of Justice. Sun has asked for a hearing on July 31, but Microsoft officials believe Sun will request an earlier date.
According to one industry analyst, Sun's actions are just a blip on the radar screen for Microsoft, which is probably much more concerned about antitrust charges. Besides, he said, Sun isn't really saying anything new.
"I would be a surprise if it had any affect on Windows 98," said Eric Brown, senior analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "There's no new impact from this filing. This is a continuation of their case that they made a couple of months ago about Internet Explorer 4.0. Either all of it has merit or none of it has merit. Sun is probably counting on the publicity, he said, and being vocal has helped make them a force to be reckoned with. But in the end, he predicts most companies will opt for Microsoft's Java implementation.
"If [companies] believe that [Java] is critical, then they have to make a very crisp decision if they're going to use Java in the Microsoft environment or in Sun's pure environment," he said. "My sense is that most of them will use Java to leverage the value and the installed infrastructure around Microsoft's Windows and COM platform."