Microsoft throws Java out of Windows XP

Microsoft Corp. will not include its JVM (Java Virtual Machine) in Windows XP or subsequent operating systems as part of a phaseout of the JVM following a January out-of-court settlement with Sun Microsystems Inc. Consumers who buy Windows XP will not get JVM with the operating system but will be able to download Microsoft's JVM free from the company's Web site. They can also choose to download any other JVM, including Sun's, said Balaprakash Kasiviswanathan, Windows XP product marketing manager for Asia-Pacific, based in Singapore.

Critics argue that Microsoft's decision to pull the JVM from the operating system points to an attempt by the Redmond, Washington, software maker to lure Java developers to its own language C# (pronounced C-sharp), a key component in the company's .Net initiative.

"We don't see any reason for it from a computing standpoint," said Andrew Shikiar, director of POSSIE.org, a grassroots group supported by Java-centric software companies and developers. "They might see Java as competitive to their .Net strategy."

JVM is software that enables Windows to run Java-based programs, which are often used to create animation and interactive features on Web pages and mobile devices, such as stock tickers and real-time sports scores.

Corporate customers who buy a single image of Windows XP will get the Microsoft JVM on the discs that contain the operating system, so they will not have to download a JVM onto each individual machine, but it will not be part of the operating system.

The change is being made as a result of the legal dispute between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Inc. and its settlement in January of this year, Microsoft said. Sun had accused Microsoft of distributing a version of Java that was not compatible with Sun's. [See "Sun, Microsoft settle Java lawsuit," Jan. 23.]Under the settlement, Microsoft stopped development of its JVM, and will gradually phase out the software. Removing it from Windows XP is a step toward discontinuing the product, Kasiviswanathan said. He declined to detail further steps in the phaseout.

"We will phase it out, but at this point we want to make sure people can have it on demand," Kasiviswanathan said.

The first time XP users try to view a Web site or use an application that requires a JVM, they will get a prompt to download Microsoft's JVM from its Web site, he said. At that point, they can choose to skip that download and choose another JVM instead.

According to Kasiviswanathan, XP will fully support Sun's JVM for those users who choose it.

"There is no lack of support for running any sort of application," he said.

While the Windows XP Release Candidate 1 offers the option to install the software, Java supporters said the extra steps to download the 5M-byte program and get it to run safely on a computer could eventually hinder consumers and developers from supporting Java moving forward.

"It's not something the average consumer should have to do," Shikiar said. "Also, from a fairness standpoint, if I'm a developer I need to know what I can develop for."

Kasiviswanathan defended the work Microsoft did to enhance its JVM.

"Ours has a lot more innovation and was a better way of using Java," he said. According to information on Microsoft's Web site, the Microsoft JVM includes the Microsoft COM (Component Object Model), which lets Java programmers take advantage of some Windows features and allows quicker download of Java applications, among other things.

Current Windows operating systems ship with Microsoft's JVM integrated, and they will continue to include it. Users who upgrade to XP from an earlier version of Windows will be able to keep the Microsoft JVM that came with their old OS, Kasiviswanathan said.

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