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  1. Technology
December 1, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Java programmers are beginning to become aware that they may have to write Java-based programs twice – once for Microsoft dependent implementations and once for cross-platform versions, Java author James Gosling will testify at the Microsoft Corp antitrust trial in Washington over the next few days. In his written testimony, released last night, Gosling paints a picture of Java technology on the verge of fragmentation, a situation he blames on efforts by Microsoft to reduce the cross-platform promise of Java. According to Gosling, the write-once-run-anywhere philosophy of Java is viewed by Microsoft as a threat to its operating system dominance. His testimony charts a series of actions and events that have led up to the situation. First is the erosion of an independent browser market, brought about by the decline of Netscape Communications Corp’s Navigator browser. Netscape was the first source code licensee of Java technology from Sun Microsystems Inc in 1995, and the inclusion of the Java Virtual Machine within Navigator was responsible the widest distribution of the JVM ever achieved. The ultimate success of the Java technology is dependent on broad distribution of JVMs that comply with the specifications, says Gosling. While Microsoft has been distributing a JVM with Internet Explorer since IE 4.0 was launched in September 1997, the version included is Windows dependent, he claims. Microsoft then incorporated both the browser and the JVM as non-removable parts of Windows 98 – a strategy for which Gosling says he can see no significant technological reason. The JVM is now distributed both in the retail version of Windows 98 and in the version licensed to PC manufacturers. I am aware of no PC manufacturer that is presently shipping a second, compatible JVM on their Windows systems, says Gosling. Second, Microsoft included its Microsoft- dependent implementation in toolkits distributed to hundreds and thousands of software developers as part of the Visual Studio development tools. Gosling points out that the Microsoft dependencies embedded within the toolkit won’t always be obvious to developers. He also says that developers wishing to write for the Microsoft JVM are effectively tied to Microsoft’s own tools. And he points to code examples published with the tools that include the Microsoft dependencies. In sum, the key parts of the Java technology – the programming language, the class libraries and APIs, the compiler and the JVM – have been altered in Microsoft’s implementation in ways that impair [its] cross- platform promise, accuses Gosling, if Microsoft successfully fragments the Java technology, the cross-platform benefits to vendors, developers and users will be damaged, and any threat that [Java] poses to Microsoft’s dominant Windows operating system will be neutralized. Gosling says he won’t be testifying over the question of whether Microsoft violated the terms of its licensing agreement with Sun, the issue addressed by the US District Court in San Jose, and which led to a temporary injunction ruling that Microsoft must add support for Sun’s JNI interface last month. Nevertheless, Judge Penfield Jackson will hear motions in court today over whether depositions used in the San Jose case should be admitted into the Washington court.

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