Sun Microsystems Wednesday said it has signed 11th hour deals with Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer to keep Java running on PCs despite Microsoft’s attempts at killing it off.
According to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun, the two traditional allies of Microsoft will continue to ship the Java runtime environment as part of their original equipment manufacturing agreements. Sun said HP will ship the latest Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario consumer desktops and notebooks, and HP Compaq business desktops, notebooks and thin clients, as well as HP Workstations that run Microsoft operating system starting as early as the third quarter.
“Microsoft has been, and remains, one of HP’s most valued and trusted partners,” said HP spokeperson Tiffany Smith. “HP’s strategy moving forward is to support Java with both Sun JRE and .Net from Microsoft in an effort to provide our customers and partners with the broadest set of options to experience and extend the use of the Internet.”
Specifics of Dell’s deal are a bit sketchier at this point. Representatives with the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker were not immediately available for comment.
“The agreement we reached is wide ranging,” Sun Executive Vice President of Software Jonathan Schwartz said during a briefing with reporters at Sun’s JavaOne Conference here. “We expect Dell to put it on all the computers they want people to buy. There comes a point when the manufacturers are not in charge anymore.”
Recently, Microsoft said it would drop the Java environment from its Windows OS as of Jan. 1, 2004. Sun is currently engaged in an ongoing lawsuit against the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant in this matter, and won an injunction last December requiring Microsoft to bundle Java software with the operating system.
Sun Vice President Developer Platforms Rich Green, who got the news of the deals minutes before giving his keynote address, said the issue is wider than any legal wrangling.
“This is all about the power of Java. This is not a religious issue. This is not about Microsoft. This is about the enormous growth of Java,” Green said.
Technology publisher Tim O’Reilly was a little more forthcoming.
“With all of the Java that is all in the devices, if Dell and HP didn’t do it today, they would have to answer to their customers trying to run applications written in Java,” O’Reilly said. “It is an important deal for these guys. We see it in the mobile space and now the PC industry is going to have to play catch up.”
On Tuesday, alternative OS start-up vendor, Lindows.com, joined Apple Computer and Red Hat in pledging support behind the write-once/run-anytime software that Sun launched in 1995. Just days away from the release of its LindowsOS 4.0 product launch, the company said LindowsOS 4.0 will include Java software support.
Roots of the dispute
This is the second time around for Microsoft and Sun on this particular issue. In January 2001, Microsoft settled the original suit brought by Sun to the tune of $20 million. Sun initiated that lawsuit in 1997. It stemmed from an agreement the two companies made in 1996, when Microsoft obtained a license from Sun to use the Java technology, with the stipulation that Microsoft would deliver only compatible implementations of the technology.
Following the agreement, Microsoft used the Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1.4, a version that had long been superceded, thus ensuring Windows-only compatibility. Sun argued that by making its Java implementation Windows-only, Microsoft violated the terms of the license.
As part of the settlement, Sun gave Microsoft the right to continue using the outdated JDK for seven years, though Microsoft made no commitment to do so.
As a result, in July 2001, Microsoft decided not to include a JVM in Windows XP.
“It comes down to the settlement agreement,” Yankee Group Analyst Neal Goldman said at the time. “On the one hand, you could say, ‘gee, Microsoft is attempting to keep people from using Java on Windows and this is sort of an exclusionary tactic.’ I think that’s probably not true. Because of the settlement agreement with Sun, they can’t ship current or new versions of Java. If my choices were to ship nothing or an old version, I would ship nothing.”
That was the tack Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla took when explaining Microsoft’s decision in July 2001.
Pilla said at the time that making the Microsoft JVM downloadable rather than shipping it with Windows XP helped the company abide by the terms of its settlement with Sun.
“We’re still supporting our JVM,” Pilla said. “We’re just not going to include the JVM in XP…Everyone that wants Java support in Windows XP will get it.”
Pilla also noted, “PC manufacturers are free to install the Microsoft JVM before they ship.” He added that IT managers will also be able to make the decision to install the JVM on computers, and that anyone who upgrades to XP from a previous Windows operating system will retain their Microsoft JVM.
Microsoft also noted at the time that if Windows XP users came upon sites that required Java, Internet Explorer would ask the users if they wished to download a JVM. Microsoft later changed its position, deciding to include a JVM in a Windows XP update until 2004, after which it would drop it.