"It's not specifically a security issue. It's a commercial, business-side issue," he said during last week's call. "The reason it's tied with security is that it's showing up when we push out new installers on the Windows platform. Really, it's not related to security directly."
Smith also defended the practice by saying Oracle had inherited the deal when it acquired Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java, in 2010. "This is not a new business, this is not something that Oracle started," Smith said. "This is a business that Sun initiated a long time ago."
Sun had bundled third-party software with Java since at least 2005, when it offered a Google toolbar. In the following years, Sun made similar arrangements with Microsoft and Yahoo, before switching to Ask.com.
While Smith stopped far short of saying that Oracle would drop the bundling, he tried to sooth obviously ruffled feathers among the JUG community. "It's something that we are looking at and constantly evaluating whether it's worth doing," he said. "What I can say is, we hear you loud and clear. We're aware of the concerns and we're looking at what we can do moving forward."
He also declined to give the JUG leaders an explanation for the odd installation behavior of the Ask.com toolbar, even as he agreed with another caller that it was "squirrelly."
"I agree that on the surface, when you look at, it's like, 'Why is it that way?'" Smith said. "It could be that we are never able to give a satisfactory answer. But I hope at some point we can clarify what that's about and why."
Ask.com did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the toolbar's installation process and the status of its deal with Oracle.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com. See more articles by Gregg Keizer.
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