Baratz gives Microsoft strategy lesson

Sun's Java software president says Microsoft could have done a better job of corrupting Java

By Robert McMillan, SunWorld staff

May  1998
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Santa Clara, CA (May 21, 1998) -- Commenting on Sun's legal dispute with Microsoft over its implementation of the Java Virtual Machine, Alan Baratz, president of Sun's Java software division, said last night that he was surprised that Sun's rival had moved so quickly to make changes to the Java technology.

Baratz said that he had expected Microsoft to first gain the trust of the developer community, something he claims has not happened, and then alter the Java platform.

Last October, shortly after Microsoft released the final version of its Internet Explorer 4.0 software, Sun sued Microsoft for breach of contract, claiming that the software was not JDK 1.1 compliant.

Last week the suit was extended as Sun filed a motion asking that Microsoft be forced to either ship JDK 1.1-compliant software in Windows 98 or not ship Java technology at all.

Speaking at a dinner sponsored by Silicon Valley's Churchill Club last night Baratz claimed that the changes Microsoft made in Windows 98 go, in fact, beyond the Internet Explorer "incompatibilities." According to him, Microsoft has introduced new Java constructs and new compiler directives into Windows 98 that are supported in the latest version of its Visual J++ development tool, but are not part of Sun's Java platform.

Microsoft says that these changes are simply designed to let Java developers take advantage of the rich Windows feature set, and that Sun's suit is without merit. But Sun contends that by creating two versions of Java -- a Windows version and a non-Windows version -- Microsoft is seeking to undermine Java's "write once, run anywhere" promise. "This has made it crystal-clear to the developer community that they need to be very wary [of Microsoft]," said Baratz.

But according to one developer listening in the audience last night, developers need to be wary of both Sun and Microsoft. "We have to be wary of Microsoft with respect to Java, if we want the promise of write once, run everywhere," said Viral Tolat, vice president of product development at Integral Development Corporation. But Tolat added that Java's promise as a Windows development environment remains unproven. He, like many developers, is waiting for the delivery of the Java Developer Kit (JDK) 1.2 with its HotSpot compiler technology to see whether or not Sun intends to provide development tools that compete with Visual J++.

JDK 1.2 and HotSpot will need to do a few things to please developers like Tolat. "It's got to be fast, stable, high quality, and it's got to look good on Windows," he said.

DOJ suit not hurting Java
When asked about the recent Department of Justice antitrust case brought against Microsoft, Baratz said that it "isn't hurting" his company's cause. However, he declined to comment on whether or not Sun would encourage similar antitrust actions based on Microsoft's use of the Java technology.

Sun issued a statement earlier this week applauding the actions taken by the Department of Justice.

Switching from soft drinks to fast food in his choice of metaphors, Baratz said that Microsoft calling its technology Java was like Kentucky Fried Chicken selling pork chops and calling them chicken.

"But what's wrong with that, if they taste good?" quipped one pundit in the audience.


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