Microsoft to cease host of older products

Microsoft Corp. will stop distributing several older products this week as a result of a legal settlement with Sun Microsystems in a dispute over Java, Microsoft said.

Among the products that Microsoft will cut from its distribution channels on Dec. 15 are all versions of Windows 98 except Windows 98 Second Edition; Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition; all Office 2000 editions; Office XP Developer edition and SQL Server 7, said Tony Goodhew, a product manager in Microsoft’s developer division.

“There is a list of products that we can no longer ship as of Jan. 2, 2004, because they include a version of the Microsoft virtual machine that we are no longer able to distribute as part of our settlement with Sun,” Goodhew said.

Java enables developers to write applications that can run on any computer regardless of its operating system, and Microsoft’s virtual machine allows users to run Java applications on Windows PCs. Other vendors, including Sun, also make virtual machines for Windows.

By year’s end, Microsoft will release updated versions of some of its products without the virtual machine, so that it can continue to distribute them, Goodhew said. Those updated versions include the Workstation, Server and Enterprise Server editions of Windows NT 4.0; Office XP Professional Edition with FrontPage; Small Business Server 2000; ISA Server 2000; and Publisher 2002, he said.

The companies settled a three-year-old breach of contract lawsuit in January 2001 that Sun, Java’s creator, had filed against Microsoft accusing it of violating a licensing and distribution agreement by distributing a version of Java that was not compatible with Sun’s.

As part of the deal, Microsoft paid Sun US$20 million and agreed to retire products that included its incompatible Java.

Earlier this year, Microsoft and Sun agreed to extend another deadline related to the settlement. The agreement allowed Microsoft to continue supporting its virtual machine until Sept. 30, to give its customers more time to stop using the software. Microsoft, however, has decided to phase out the products now.

“As part of our settlement and license extension with Sun, we can only modify the Microsoft virtual machine until Sept. 30, 2004,” Goodhew said. “After that date we will not be able to modify the virtual machine for any reason, including security. We will not ship products that include a piece of software we cannot provide security fixes for.”

Though the products will no longer be available in the channel or from Microsoft’s site, current users will still be able to buy licenses, he said.

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