JFC; Microsoft declares war

Robert S. Thau (rst@ai.mit.edu)
Fri, 1 Aug 1997 13:58:02 -0400 (EDT)

Mark Baker writes:
> [Day-old-bits, but since nobody else FoRKed them, I thought I
> better.]
> Anybody get the feeling that Microsoft's reacting a wee bit
> prematurely in deciding what they are and are not going to ship
> as part of the IE VM?

Ummm... I think the bits were older than that --- for the last six
months at least it's been the case that:

*) Sun claims that Microsoft's licenses require it to ship
*everything* that Sun deems part of the Java platform by shipping
it with a final-release JDK.

*) Microsoft claims this is nonsense.

*) Neither one quotes the actual contract language which would allow
a neutral party to draw any informed conclusion at all about the
merit of their respective claims.

The last time this was making headlines, the particular bone of
contention was JavaBeans. Now, it's the JFC libraries. However, the
fundamental issues (legal and commercial) remain the same --- whether
Microsoft is going to ship all of the pieces of Sun's JDK, or whether
they will be able to pick and choose.

Now, the license agreement may indeed include a requirement that
Microsoft not "pick and choose", but even if it does, Sun obviously
won't get any mileage out of waving the paper around --- if they want
to enforce it as a legal obligation, they'll have to take it to court,
and that was as much the case six months ago as now.

Independantly, commercial forces may drag them to shipping the stuff
anyway, but I think they'll fight *very* hard not to. It may happen.
They did, after all, give up on the notion of making MSN a closed
competitor to the Internet with its own proprietary data formats, in
favor of "embracing and extending" the emerging internet standards.
However, the proprietary MSN/Blackbird model wasn't making very much
money (by Microsoft standards at least) at the time it got cut off at
the knees; whereas JavaBeans/JFC competes pretty directly for
developer attention with technologies that are bringing money to
Redmond by the bushel. That may mean a much harder fight.