The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit halted an order that would have gone into effect Tuesday requiring Microsoft to offer Sun's Java Runtime Environment with Windows XP and Internet Explorer. The appeals court ruling ran about two pages and offered little explanation for the stay, according to a Sun representative.
It delays, pending action by the appeals court, a Dec. 23 order by U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Motz, who is presiding over a number of private antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft including one filed by Sun. Motz set the clock ticking on the "must-carry" Java order in a ruling Jan. 21, when he gave Microsoft 120 days to comply.
Sun has argued that Microsoft tried to derail a competitive threat posed by Java by offering a version of the technology that is incompatible with Sun's specifications. Its lawyers argued before Motz that Microsoft's behavior, if allowed to continue, would unfairly drive developers to Microsoft's competing .Net platform.
"We regret the Fourth Circuit Court's decision," Lee Patch, vice president for legal affairs at Sun, said in a statement. "The preliminary injunctions granted by the District Court will benefit consumers and ... the Java Community's developers, enterprises and system vendors. We will work actively to ensure that the earliest possible date is set for the appellate hearing. We look forward to demonstrating the merits of District Court's decision when the appeal is heard."
Microsoft had said earlier Monday that it was taking steps to comply with Motz's order, by replacing the service pack Windows XP SP1 with a new service pack, XP SP1a. It said the upgrade would be identical to the previous service pack but exclude Microsoft's Java virtual machine. It said it would have included Sun's Java software in Windows XP in early June 2003 starting with Service Pack 1b.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said later Monday that those plans are now on hold pending further appeals court action.
"I believe that everything will be on hold until we hear from the court and the conclusion of the appeals process," Desler said. "We're pleased the court granted our motion, but the work that we did up to this point revealed that we were complying fully with the district court order."