Java on Windows: Responses, Updates, and Conspiracy Theories Abound

My January 9 commentary "Will Forcing Microsoft to Carry Java Create an Even Playing Field?" ( ) elicited an unprecedented amount of mail from .NET UPDATE readers. Thanks to everyone who responded; I'm sorry I can't personally reply to many of the email messages. However, in this issue I'll summarize the responses, provide an update to the court case, and take a quick look at a related conspiracy theory that's making the rounds online.

Readers Respond Readers' responses to the Java bundling issue were fascinating. Responses were about 60 percent in favor of the court decision and about 40 percent against the decision; a majority of respondents said they thought Microsoft should be required to carry Java technology in Windows. Many readers pointed out that Sun Microsystems' failure to effectively market Java was at least partially Sun's fault. Although Sun's marketing might have been inadequate, keep in mind that a federal court ruled that Microsoft acted illegally to harm Java. An appellate court upheld this ruling. Microsoft's actions toward Java are now a matter of legal fact. This legal fact enabled Sun to sue Microsoft in the first place.

Many people said they felt that the .NET Framework is superior to Java, and this is certainly my opinion. The technical advantages of .NET over Java are legion. You can use the language of your choice when developing .NET applications and services, for example, and the .NET garbage-collection routines don't incur the performance overhead that Java's do. Arguably, many of Microsoft's best products have been--ahem--inspired by other products. And you could make the case that the syntax and programming style of .NET languages such as C# are obviously similar to Java. But this assertion isn't fair because C#, like Java itself, is just a modern implementation of a C-like, object-oriented (OO) language. If we're going to criticize Microsoft for copying Java, we must criticize Sun for copying the languages that came before Java.

Some readers felt uncomfortable with the precedent of forcing Microsoft to bundle Java. What's next, one reader asked, a bloated copy of Netscape in each Windows copy? That fear isn't too far-fetched: Netscape owner AOL Time Warner is preparing a similar lawsuit to Sun's, and Netscape, like Sun, was one of the companies touted in the Microsoft antitrust trial as being harmed by the software giant's actions.

Finally, one reader posed an interesting question: How successful would Java have been if Microsoft hadn't embraced it, for whatever reason, in the first place? If Microsoft hadn't announced its intention to include Java in Windows years ago, would so many developers have embraced the technology? It's a fair question, and one to which we might never get an answer, especially from Sun.

Microsoft vs. Sun: an Update Sun and Microsoft recently agreed on the way in which Java will be implemented in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), and Judge J. Frederick Motz has given the companies 4 months to make the implementation happen. First, however, Microsoft has a 2-week reprieve so that the company can present its appeal to an appellate court. If the appeal is denied, the preliminary injunction forcing the company to bundle Java will be in place while Sun's $1 billion lawsuit against the company progresses. What a country.

Conspiracy Theory One reader forwarded me an interesting, and even somewhat plausible, conspiracy theory. IT titan IBM recently made a bid to purchase Rational Software, makers of open industry-standard software tools based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and .NET. Industry watchers had expected Microsoft to contest the purchase and perhaps even make its own bid for Rational. However, Microsoft did nothing. The rumor is that Rational is working on a full Java implementation for Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET environment, dubbed Java .NET, that will also include a high-performance Java Virtual Machine (JVM), which IBM/Rational would distribute for free. The theory is that Microsoft will argue to the appellate court that it shouldn't have to bundle Java if two high-quality Windows-compatible implementations, from Sun and IBM/Rational, are available for free online.

I don't believe that one for a minute.

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