December 13, 1996 5:30 PM ET

Java rivals digging in
By Michael Moeller

  NEW YORK-JavaSoft has drawn a line in the Internet sand, and Microsoft Corp. is ready to cross it.

Microsoft's Java Software Development Kit violates the licensing agreement it signed for the Java language, JavaSoft President Alan Baratz said in an interview at Internet World here.

The license allows vendors to embed Java Virtual Machine in products but does not allow them to redistribute the technology as a separate product. "[Microsoft's Java SDK] is nothing more than a vehicle for delivering a stand-alone Java VM," Baratz said. "That's not covered by the licensing agreement."

Baratz praised much of the work Microsoft has done with its Java development to date and said he expects Microsoft to comply with the licensing terms. "They have said they intend to live up to the letter and spirit of the agreement," he said. "I don't have a reason to believe otherwise at this point in time."

But Baratz strongly implied that Microsoft must remove the offending SDK code from its World Wide Web site-or face the consequences. He declined to say what those consequences would be.

"[Microsoft is] not going to be delivering stand-alone VMs. They are not going to deliver VMs to ISVs for them to integrate in their applications," he said.

Microsoft, however, has no plans to remove the SDK from its Web site, said Bob Muglia, the Redmond, Wash., company's vice president of developer tools and server software.

"We feel very comfortable that we are in no way violating the licensing agreement with the SDK," Muglia said. "We are trying to give the best implementation of Java. We are going to continue to enhance it."

The dispute over the SDK is the most contentious part of a broader disagreement over Microsoft's plans to distribute Java technology to developers. Another potential trouble spot could be Microsoft's support of JavaSoft's JDK (Java Development Kit) 1.1, which is in beta testing now.

Microsoft officials have said in the past that the company will evaluate JDK 1.1 when it comes out and will implement selected parts in its core products, such as Internet Explorer. But the company will not support JDK 1.1 technologies that duplicate work already done by Microsoft.

Baratz countered that Microsoft does not have the right to pick and choose what part of JDK 1.1 it will support in its core product line.

"Where there are duplicate technologies, more than likely, Microsoft will have to deliver two solutions," said Baratz. "But can they post whatever they like or don't like on a Web site? No."

Muglia said Microsoft will make available everything that is required to be part of the Java platform-but he maintained that the company makes its own decisions about what goes in its products.

"We are going to make sure everything that is going to be part of JDK 1.1 will be available to developers," he said. "How technologies are packaged is our decision and no one else's."

Attempting to show a unified front behind the Java language, JavaSoft rolled out at Internet World a new branding campaign called "100% Pure Java."

It touted more than 100 supporters for the campaign, which will involve certifying applications created fully in Java. Among the supporters were Netscape Communications Corp., Oracle Corp., Apple Computer Inc. and IBM.

Microsoft, however, was absent from the press conference. Although Baratz said he invited Microsoft to be in the press announcement, Microsoft officials said they did not have sufficient time to make a decision about participating.

As JavaSoft and Microsoft escalate their war of words over licensing agreements and strategy, users are concerned over the potential fragmentation of the Java language.

"This is causing us to give a lot of thought about how we use Java," said Neil Fox, manager of advanced development and applied technologies at TRW Inc., in Cleveland. "We can't afford to have Java compatibility problems."

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