The US Department of Justice has broadened its antitrust investigation of Microsoft to include the software giant's relationship with arch-rival Sun Microsystems and the Java programming language, sources close to the probe said this week.
Several months ago, the US Justice Department served Sun with civil investigation demands relating to its investigation of Microsoft, said Sun spokeswoman Ann Little. Several state attorneys general, also investigating Microsoft, made the same requests, Little said.
Microsoft and Sun are locked in a court battle over the Redmond company's implementation of Java, which, if used as a platform, Microsoft views as a threat to its Windows operating system.
Sun's suit claims that Microsoft's implementations of Java in developer software and in its Internet Explorer browser co-opts the language by making it run better on Windows, which flies in the face of Sun's "write once, run anywhere" vision.
"Microsoft has been quite clear about its intentions for Java, that it's a language for developing Windows applications," said John Rymer, director and senior consultant at Upstream Consulting, in Emeryville, California.
Sources close to the probe said US government investigators want to expand its ongoing investigation of Microsoft to include the company's Java plans. Justice Department spokesman Michael Gordon would not comment on the matter because it is part of an ongoing investigation.
Microsoft officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Microsoft-Sun battle has divided the developer community. However, at the Seybold Seminars Publishing '98 conference in New York, an anti-Microsoft current was evident.
"I'd like to see Java remain open. I feel that Sun really cares about that. I don't get the sense that Sun has a hidden agenda, but, based on past performance, I couldn't say the same about Microsoft and Apple," said Sean Bell of ImageSystems, in Boulder, Colorado.
"Anything to stop the Microsoft machine is good. Java is just a little stone in Microsoft's road. The effort to stop Microsoft from owning the Internet is worthy, but it is inevitable that they will," added Maria Giudice, creative director at Design for Understanding, in San Francisco.