MS/DoJ: Sides grapple over Java

What a difference a day makes. Wednesday, Microsoft officials painted Java as Sun Microsystems' weapon for "killing" their company.

But yesterday in court in week seven of the US vs. Microsoft antitrust trial, the software giant was intent on portraying Java as the programming language that will never match its promise.

James Gosling, creator of the Java cross-platform programming language, acknowledged in court yesterday during that there were problems with Sun Microsystems' claim that Java is a "write once, run anywhere" developer's tool.

Microsoft attorney Tom Burt spent the morning attacking Sun's marketing claim. And in a sense Gosling faced a trial by news media, as Burt introduced a series of articles and test studies by computer publications that were critical of Sun's claims for Java.

The tactic suggested to David Boies, the lead government attorney, that Microsoft is changing strategy. He said Microsoft's cross-examination "seems to suggest that Java really wasn't much of a threat".

Microsoft's argument, said Boies outside the courtroom, is that Java would have died anyway, "is a little bit like saying if somebody shoots you they can defend it by saying that you have cancer".

But Tod Nielsen, general manager of developer relations at Microsoft, also speaking outside the courtroom here said that in 1996 the company at first viewed Java as a threat to its operating system, "but it turned out that the promises were bigger than the facts".

Nielsen said Java's cross-platform promise "is technically impossible and is not going to be delivered upon," he said. "The Java platform is not a threat to Microsoft."

The US Department of Justice is trying to show that Microsoft's attempt to distribute a version of Java incompatible with Sun's own arose out of its fear that Java's growing popularity would weaken Microsoft's monopoly on the operating system market. Sun is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Microsoft charging that it violated the terms of its Java licensing agreement by distributing incompatible implementations of Java.

The issue goes to the heart of Sun's allegations that Microsoft's version of Java threatened to make the most widely distributed version of Java technologies incompatible with the standard Java language developed by Sun -- thus undermining Sun's efforts to allow Java-based applications to run on a wide variety of operating systems.

On the witness stand, Gosling disputed some of the testing results in the magazine articles, and Boies questioned the reliability of some of the tests, saying they weren't done by scientific review.

Burt, however, said that the articles were extremely relevant because Microsoft and Sun were in a "competition for the hearts and minds of developers".

Gosling said repeatedly on the stand that there were problems with the initial versions of the Java Developers Kit (JDK). "This issue of compatibility is a function of time ... it is getting better," he said.

Gosling also took issue with some of the test data presented by different articles. In response to one article that tested the compatibility of different Java applets, he said, "I think that's completely false. I don't where they got their test data, I don't know how they performed the test."

Microsoft is claiming that Sun has greatly overstated Java's capabilities and that the programming language can only achieve portability unless there are significant trade-offs in performance and functionality. Microsoft has been arguing that its specific implementation is better and preferred by developers.

And to show the claims by Sun are not unique, and that previous efforts to develop cross-platform languages have failed, Burt turned the clock back to 1978 and cited a textbook on the C programming language in which the authors had claimed that C was a portable language. Many of the claims made in the book are similar to what Sun has said about Java.

But Gosling said the situation is considerably more complicated. He said C was "an incredibly powerful example of how standards get twisted".

As C language compilers were implemented for different operating systems dramatic variations between them emerged. Gosling said he conceived of Java in part "from the scars that I acquired in doing C porting."

"One of my goals in building Java was not to live through that fragmentation again," he said.

Gosling said that Sun was "working very hard" to improve Java's cross platform capability. "One of the main reasons why we started our lawsuit in San Jose was to make sure that this problem got better, not worse."

Two weeks ago, Sun was granted a preliminary injunction by a US district court in its Java technology lawsuit against Microsoft Judge Ronald Whyte of the US District Court in San Jose, Northern District of California, ruled that Sun is likely to prevail in the case, and ordered Microsoft to make changes to its products so that they include an implementation of Java that will pass Sun's Java compatibility test suite.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?