Microsoft Excludes Java From Windows XP

Move may threaten client-side development

It's official: After months of speculation, Microsoft Corp. last week confirmed that Java is being dropped from its latest operating system release, undermining Sun Microsystems Inc.'s revived effort to foster client-side Java application development.

Prerelease copies of Windows XP and its new browser, Internet Explorer 6.0, slated to ship this fall, don't include the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that was used in Windows 2000 and Internet Explorer 5.0. PCs must have a copy of that piece of Java software to run Java applets.

"It's not really surprising," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "Microsoft was very clear about what it would do after the Sun settlement, which is back away from Java."

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Strategic Moves

Microsoft last week said that Sun’s JVM technology won’t make an appearance in its new Windows XP desktop operating system.

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Sun settlement restricted Microsoft to 7-year-old Version 1.1.4 of Java.

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Users who want to run Java-based client-side applications will have to download the component from Microsoft’s Web site.

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Windows XP is slated to ship this fall.

As part of its settlement with Sun, which claimed that Microsoft had infringed on its copyright by altering Sun's Java source code, Microsoft was barred from using the latest versions of Java, including the JVM. The $20 million settlement gave Microsoft the right to use the code from 1997—the year the lawsuit was filed—in its existing tools for the next seven years.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0, for example, contained the JVM from Sun's 1.1.4 specification. Sun now offers Version 1.3.

Enderle said IT organizations should be cautious about using Java to develop client-side applications for Microsoft platforms. "If you're developing on Microsoft platforms, Java is risky right now," he said. "Those developers are at a disadvantage to C# developers."

C# is the new object-oriented development language that Microsoft unveiled last July. After the Sun settlement was reached, the company introduced Java User Migration Path to Microsoft .Net, a tool for converting applications developed in Visual J++ and existing Java code to C# and its .Net platform.

"We haven't removed support for the Java Virtual Machine," said Tony Goodhew, a product manager at Microsoft's developer division. "We just changed it from a preinstall component to an install-on-command component. There has been no change in functionality for end users."

Microsoft officials said the change was officially made on April 12, the date its Release Candidate 1 for Windows XP became available. The JVM will be available as a free download from Microsoft's update Web site when Windows XP ships.

Sun will make the JVM available on its Web site, said David Harrah, a Sun spokesman. He added that not having the JVM in the new browser shouldn't affect server-side development projects because most of those applications contain their own JVM. "This is less of an issue for corporate end users than consumers," said Harrah.

Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at Patricia Seybold Group Inc. in Boston, said that the omission of the JVM won't affect the success of Windows XP, In fact, it shows that Microsoft is confident it can live without Java, he added.

"Technically, it's a nonevent," O'Kelly said. "Strategically, it's a major milestone because the JVM went out with a whimper."

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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