Java Hearings: Sun 1, Microsoft 0

Microsoft got a little jolt on the first day of hearings to determine whether it should be forced to bundle the Sun Microsystems version of Java with Windows XP. Federal District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz described Sun's request as an "attractive remedy" to "the distortions of the market wrought by the violations Microsoft has done." In other words, the judge is already leaning toward forcing Microsoft to bundle another company's product with its monopoly OS.

In response, Microsoft lawyer David Tulchin told Judge Motz that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had rejected a similar Windows-bundling scheme. But Motz said he isn't bound by Kollar-Kotelly's ruling. "I was surprised at the vehemence with which Judge Kollar-Kotelly rejected \[the Java bundling proposal\]," Motz said. "\[This remedy is\] so much nicer than trying to have economists come back after the fact and try to figure out what would have been."

Sun's rationale for forcing its competitor to bundle Java is that Microsoft is using its monopoly OS to promulgate its Microsoft .NET technology, which Sun says the company designed as a response to Java. "Microsoft has an illegitimate competitive advantage," Sun attorney Lloyd R. Day told Judge Motz, "and the harm is happening now."

However, Microsoft got in a few digs. Questioning Sun Vice President Rich Green, Tulchin referred to a March 2002 speech in which Green said that more than 50 percent of software developers use Java and that 1 billion wireless devices will include the technology by 2006. "That's what the future looked like? Pretty rosy?" Tulchin asked Green. "\[Sun doesn't\] tell you they expect to have dominance in cell phones, handheld devices, and application servers," Tulchin told the court, holding up a Research In Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry device, which uses Sun, rather than Microsoft technology. "They want you to leave their dominance in the rest of the market alone."

Microsoft and Sun have been fighting over Java for several years. After Microsoft licensed Sun's cross-platform programming and runtime environment in 1997, Sun sued Microsoft for altering its Java version and making it incompatible with other Java versions. Facing defeat, Microsoft later settled the case and paid Sun $20 million. But after bundling an outdated Java version in the XP beta, the company later announced that it would drop Java from Windows and make it a separate download, available only until 2004. Sun says that shipping an outdated Java version is, in some ways, worse than not shipping Java at all.

The Sun lawsuit isn't Microsoft's only legal concern these days. Judge Motz is also presiding over similar lawsuits from Be,, and Netscape (now a unit of AOL Time Warner). In addition, various class-action lawsuits are pending against the company, as well as the Massachusetts and West Virginia appeals of the federal antitrust case and a European antitrust investigation.

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