Microsoft dropping Java in Mac, Unix Explorer

Recent US District Court injunction spurs Redmond, WA-based company to make drastic changes in offending products

November 23, 1998 -- Microsoft on Friday said it will comply with a court order to make changes to Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4.0, and its Java software developer kit, bringing each into compatibility with Sun Microsystems's Java Native Interface technology.

Meanwhile, the software giant said it will drop Java support in its Macintosh and Unix versions of Explorer 4.0, citing time constraints in meeting the judge's deadlines.

Microsoft said in a statement that the ruling will not affect products customers are currently using or those in the channel and being shipped, nor will it result in any delays in delivering products to market. The company will provide updated versions of the products to OEMs and modified versions to retail stores as soon as possible, the statement said.

District Court Judge Ronald Whyte, in San Jose, CA, ruled last Tuesday that Sun is likely to prevail on the merits of its lawsuit, and gave Microsoft 90 days to change software in its browser, operating system, and developer kit. The injunction is temporary, pending the outcome of the trial, for which no date has been set.

Microsoft said it sent letters to OEMs, resellers, enterprise customers, distributors, developers, and end users, offering assurance that they won't be adversely affected by the ruling.

"We want our customers to know that the ruling has no impact on the Microsoft products they are using now and will not cause any delay in our ability to deliver Windows 98 and other products to the marketplace," Jeff Raikes, senior vice president of sales and support, said in a statement.

Later, however, Microsoft said in a letter to Explorer licensees that it could not bring its Mac and Unix browsers into compliance with Whyte's order in time, so it would drop its Java virtual machine from those browsers.

Microsoft instead will "direct customers to virtual machines that other vendors have developed for IE [Internet Explorer]," a company representative said.

The company also told customers that it soon would issue patches for existing versions of Windows and Explorer to include a virtual machine that complies with Whyte's order. New versions of the products also are in the works, Microsoft said.

The court did not order Microsoft to remove any technology from its products, only to add support for the Sun Java technology, Microsoft said. Developers can still use the Microsoft Java developer tools they have, such as VJ++ 6.0, Microsoft said. The company will modify that tool so that developers must choose to turn on the Microsoft "enhancements," the statement said.

When that choice is made, a message will be displayed warning that by using the Microsoft code the developer is choosing to write an application that may run only on Windows, according to Microsoft. Microsoft will also post patches to its Web site and a service pack release so existing customers can modify the products they are currently using.

"We are committed to supporting Java for all our customers while assessing our business and legal options moving forward," Raikes said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft maintains that "The Java VM [virtual machine] in Windows 98 and Microsoft's other products will continue to outperform other Java implementations."

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