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Microsoft will abandon Java in 2004. (First in/First out: Stub Files).

This just in from the "reap what you sow" file: Microsoft Corp. in late June announced that, as of 2004, its operating systems will no longer support Sun Microsystems' Java programming language.

As usual, the announcement was spun in different directions by the two rivals. Microsoft claimed that the decision was based on two factors. First, the company's settlement agreement of a 1997 lawsuit brought by Sun that prohibits Redmond for altering the core Java code. Second, the end result of said agreement, which Microsoft claims is the company's inability to repair product security breaches that take advantage of the Windows Java implementation. (Micro-soft has already pulled Java from Windows XP but offers support through a plug-in.)

For its part, Sun is inexplicably spinning Microsoft's decision as both a victory and a defeat. The victory, according to public comments by company officials, is that consumers and developers will no longer be harmed by Microsoft's so-called proprietary use of the Java code. The defeat, of course, is that consumers will no longer benefit from Microsoft's so-called proprietary use of the Java code. While the decision seems like a victory for Sun and a defeat for Microsoft, upon closer examination it is lose-lose, and, as usual, consumers will suffer the fallout.

Is Microsoft being truthful in its claim that Windows security is behind the decision? We have no way of knowing for sure, but it's clear that Windows and IE have been plagued by security bugs in the Microsoft Java VM; the problem is so pervasive that Microsoft issued a completely new build of its Java VM in March (for all versions of Windows). And it does make sense that Microsoft should be allowed to alter the code in its operating systems in response to security concerns (or potential concerns). This has been what many in the industry have been demanding for years.

That said, the real loser in Microsoft's decision is not Microsoft, but consumers--who want to take advantage of Java--based code using Windows-based products--and Sun, which seems to have both feet firmly planted in the "cut off your nose to spite your face" camp.

To make matters all the more confusing for users, a new report by research firm IDC indicates that the application server software market has basically made J2EE the de facto standard. "By the early part of [2002], it was clear that vendors had settled on Java 2 Enterprise Edition as the common standard for application server software," Michele Rosen, research manager for IDC's Business Process Automation and Deployment Software program, says in the report. IDC projects that worldwide, the ASS platform market will double to almost $4.4 billion by 2006.

Should Redmond be given some new type of Java license that allows it to alter code only as it relates to security breaches? Is such a technical solution even possible? And would either company support such a scheme? (I can already envision the lawsuit: claims and counter claims that a new security patch makes Java code run faster on Windows machines. Ugh.)

One size, it seems, clearly does not fit all where Java is concerned; such is the drawback of cross-platform implementations. If Java is truly the open technology that Sun claims, then Microsoft (or someone else) should be allowed to put a workable, updateable VM into Windows. But whatever the solution, there needs to be some common ground that allows Windows users to take advantage of Java using the best-performing VM implementation available.

As a closing note, at press time Sun had just announced its intention to provide the core version of its Java application server free to enterprises and ISVs on all leading platforms, including Solaris, Linux, Windows, HP-UX, and AIX. There was another company that used a similar strategy once. The company? Microsoft. The product: Internet Explorer. The result? Class-action and anti-trust lawsuits.
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Author:Piven, Joshua
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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