Judge tells Microsoft to include rival Java

Software is to be packaged with Windows after Feb. 4

January 22, 2003|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

A federal judge in Baltimore issued an order yesterday requiring Microsoft Corp. to package Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java computer programming language with its Windows operating system.

The order, which grants Sun's motion for a preliminary injunction, does not take effect for another two weeks to give Microsoft a chance to appeal. Microsoft plans to file a motion this week for an expedited appeal and a motion to stay the injunction until an appellate court finishes its review.

"We don't agree that Sun is entitled to this injunction and will appeal the court ruling and the entry of the preliminary injunction order," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler. "But while we pursue our appeal, we will take steps necessary to comply fully with today's order."

Sun was pleased with the order.

"Sun is grateful to the court for its thorough review of the issues and its speedy implementation of this important order. This preliminary injunction is a huge victory for consumers who will soon have the best, latest Java technology on their PCs. It is also a victory for enterprises and for the worldwide Java community of developers and system vendors," said Lee Patch, Sun's vice president for strategic litigation, in a statement.

The order formalizes a 42-page opinion Chief U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz issued last month in Sun's private antitrust case against Microsoft. In his opinion, Motz said that without an injunction, there was a risk that the market would "tip irretrievably in favor of .Net [Microsoft's alternative to Java] and drive Java into near-extinction."

Sun's suit is one of several filed after Microsoft was found to have violated federal laws by monopolizing the market for operating systems that run personal computers. The Justice Department and nine states, including Maryland, agreed to a proposed settlement with Microsoft, and in November U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington accepted the settlement with few changes.

In its suit in U.S. District Court here, Sun is seeking unspecified monetary damages that Microsoft's monopoly allegedly caused to Java.

The suit alleges that Microsoft "committed anti-competitive acts" to thwart the distribution of Java, the language used to write computer software that runs on a variety of operating systems. Sun also alleges that Microsoft is taking advantage of past antitrust violations to illegally maintain a monopoly in part of the personal computer market.

The California company asked Motz in a three-day hearing last month to instruct Microsoft to distribute Java with any products that run Microsoft's .Net platform. Those products include Microsoft's Windows operating system, found on more than 95 percent of all personal computers. Sun had said that if it waited until the lawsuit was settled, it would be too far behind to compete.

The injunction gives Microsoft 120 days after it takes effect Feb. 4 to include a current version of Java with its Windows operating system and Web browser.

Microsoft also must notify all customers through its update services that Java is available to them and make Java available to customers within 30 days of the time Sun delivers it to Microsoft. The judge also ordered Microsoft not to interfere with customer access to Java.

Product support for Java is Sun's responsibility, according to the order.

Bob Lande, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a director of the American Antitrust Institute, said the order was likely to lead to more choices for consumers and encourage innovation at companies other than Microsoft.

After the packaging of Microsoft's Web browser and Windows program with Java, developers will be able to use Java to create new Windows-compatible products - from different kinds of media players to programs that send streaming audio, he said.

"In the short term, consumers are going to get more choice of products," Lande said. "In the long term, maybe some of these products will even start to erode away on Microsoft's monopoly position."

Desler, of Microsoft, said that, over the past few days, Sun and Microsoft have worked to resolve disagreements over the scope and timing of Motz's order. "The order entered by the court represents our effort to formulate a clear approach that will minimize ... possible disruptions and adverse consequences to the industry," Desler said.

Shares of Sun fell 20.1 cents in trading yesterday to close at $3.55. Microsoft shares fell 13 cents to close at $51.33.

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