Judge: Microsoft’s Java deadline starts ticking

The final judge’s order requiring Microsoft Corp. to distribute Sun Microsystems Inc.’s version of Java gives Microsoft a deadline of 120 days after Feb. 4 to include Sun’s Java with all versions of Windows XP and with all Web browsers that include .Net functionality.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Motz of Baltimore delayed his order until Feb. 4 so Microsoft could appeal his decision.

Motz also ordered Microsoft to start offering as a download Sun’s Java runtime environment (JRE) as a recommended update within 30 days of Sun giving Microsoft an updated copy of its version of Java. That 30-day download deadline was Microsoft’s suggestion.

Motz’s Tuesday order incorporates suggestions from both Sun and Microsoft on how to comply with his Dec. 23 ruling requiring Microsoft to carry Sun’s version of Java in its products. Sun had asked Motz to set a deadline of 90 days, and Microsoft had asked for up to 180 days to comply.

Motz ruled Microsoft would have 120 days to comply with his Dec. 23 injunction requiring Microsoft to offer to its customers Sun’s version of its Java Virtual Machine. The two sides argued in court on Jan. 15 over the details of the “must-carry” Java order, but they delivered an agreement to Motz on Monday. Sun had requested the preliminary injunction as part of its multimillion-dollar private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

Sun lawyers argue that Microsoft used its monopoly power in the operating system market to flood the developer market with versions of Java that aren’t compatible with Sun’s Java. The “must-carry” order is necessary, they argue, because Sun’s Java is losing ground to Microsoft’s competing .Net development framework while developer confusion over Java persists.

Microsoft lawyers have argued that Sun’s own decisions hurt Java and that Motz’s order to carry a competing product is unprecedented in antitrust law.

Microsoft spokesperson Jim Desler noted that the company worked with Sun lawyers to craft an agreement on the order even as his company plans an appeal.

“We worked together to formulate a clear approach that we hope will minimize disruptions and adverse circumstances,” Desler said. “Microsoft will take the steps necessary to comply with the court’s order, to make Sun’s Java technology available to users while we pursue this appeal.”

As Sun had asked, Motz’s order also prohibits Microsoft from carrying a version of the JRE that’s incompatible with Sun’s version. But the judge noted that third-party computer makers are allowed to decide for themselves whether to carry Sun’s Java.

Sun is required to support its version of Java in Microsoft products, and Sun must provide a “reasonable response” to any request from Microsoft for information and engineering assistance. Sun must also provide a “reasonable notification” of any security vulnerabilities in its Java, although Microsoft asked for immediate notification.

“If Microsoft believes that Sun has not satisfied any condition…Microsoft shall nonetheless continue to comply with all its obligations under this Order and shall promptly notify Sun in writing of the specific details in which Microsoft contends that Sun’s performance is deficient,” Motz wrote. Sun then has 60 days to fix the problem, and if it doesn’t, Microsoft can ask the court for changes to the order.

Motz’s order also requires Sun to provide a US$25 million security for payment of Microsoft’s costs and damages if his order is overturned. Sun had asked for US$15 million, and Microsoft had originally asked for US$125 million.

“Sun is grateful to the Court for its thorough review of the issues and its speedy implementation of this important Order,” Lee Patch, vice-president of strategic litigation for Sun, said in a statement. “This preliminary injunction is a huge victory for consumers who will soon have the best, latest Java technology on their PCs. It is also a victory for enterprises and for the worldwide Java Community of developers and system vendors.”