Sun Microsystems Inc. is escalating the battle with Microsoft Corp. over Sun's Java software technology, with the announcement today that it is suing Microsoft for failing to stick to the letter of its Java licensing agreement.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, alleges that Microsoft breached its contractual obligation to deliver a compatible implementation of Java, and Sun is seeking an injunction to prevent Microsoft from improperly using the Java Compatible logo, according to a statement from Sun.
Sun is also "seeking to prevent Microsoft from misleading Java developers and to prevent them from delivering anything but fully compatible Java technology implementations," the statement said.
Java, both a programming language and a platform-independent operating environment, is seen by many computer industry observers as a threat to Microsoft Windows' stranglehold on the desktop operating system environment. While Microsoft has responded to the popularity of Java by licensing the software from Sun for inclusion into its Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, its implementation of Java has apparently displeased Sun by tying it too closely to the Windows operating system.
Sun has been running Microsoft's implementation through Java compatibility tests and has previously said that some changes to the API (application programming interface) could violate license agreements.
Today, Sun announced that Microsoft has failed those compatibility tests of its IE 4.0 browser and Software Development Kit for Java. As a result, according to Sun, applications written using Microsoft's development tools might not run on other operating systems such as MacOS or Unix, or on other browsers such as Netscape Navigator. In addition, applications written using Sun's Java Development Kit that run on MacOS, Unix and Netscape Navigator might not run on Internet Explorer 4.0, Sun said.
The complaint also charges Microsoft with trademark infringement, false advertising, breach of contract, unfair competition, interference with prospective economic advantage and inducing breach of contract.
The complaint accuses Microsoft of embarking on "a deliberate course of conduct in an attempt to fragment the standardized application programming environment established by the Java technology, to break the cross-platform compatibility of the Java programming environment, and to implement the Java technology in a manner
calculated to cause software developers to create programs that will operate only on platforms that use defendant Microsoft's Win32-based operating systems and no other systems platform or browser."
The battle between Sun and Microsoft is important because it is shaping the development of Java, according to one analyst.
"If Sun and Microsoft can agree, then Java will have a major future as a software platform," said Per Andersen, director of the Internet program at International Data Corp. in Copenhagen. "If they can't, and the battle continues, it's a threat to the future of Java."
Microsoft is in a "funny position," according to Andersen: It doesn't want Java to succeed as a platform for the desktop, yet it can't ignore it because if Java really takes off, it could be ignoring the next wave in the computer industry.
"They seem to have the usual Microsoft strategy of confusing the market," Andersen said. But, the company does risk falling too far away from Java as the software technology gains momentum. "They risk missing the train," he added.