The creator of Sun Microsystems' Java programming language conceded under cross-examination in Microsoft's antitrust trial yesterday that there are "certain tasks" that are not optimised by the cross-platform computer language, but he also testified that Java offers many advantages to computer users as a group.
James Gosling, vice president and chief scientist of Sun's Java Software Division, has testified in writing that Microsoft's attempt to tailor-make a version of Java for its Windows operating system threatens to make it incompatible with the Java language developed by Sun.
The accusation opens up a new front in the US government's case against Microsoft. The government contends Gosling's testimony is one piece in a larger picture of how the software giant used its dominance in the operating system software to restrict the distribution of technologies that threatened to rival those of Microsoft.
But under cross-examination which began this morning and is expected to continue for days, Microsoft corporate attorney Tom Burt attempted to display to the court that Microsoft's customised features for Java are technologically superior to the version developed by Sun. While questioning Gosling, Burt attempted to show that Java hasn't lived up to its potential because Sun's version contains flaws, such as the inability to give more than one function to one mouse button.
"It's true that you can't give unique functionality to a middle or right mouse button, isn't it?" Burt asked.
"You absolutely can get a mouse click," Gosling said. "It appears as a shift/click thing."
The Java technology, which has been under development since 1991, was unveiled by Sun with much fanfare in 1995. The company contended that it could function across different operating system platforms and coined the phrase for developers "write once, run anywhere". On the witness stand, Gosling backed away somewhat from that marketing claim. He labelled it "one of many high-level goals of Java".
But Gosling did concede that there are certain functions not optimised by the use of Java. Burt asked him whether there were disadvantages to writing across platforms for users.
"There are certain tasks for which Java is not appropriate," he testified. "That's why there are multiple languages in this world."