Microsoft will stop distributing several older products next week as a result of a legal settlement with Sun Microsystems in a dispute over Java.
Among the products that Microsoft will cut from its distribution channels on 15 December are all versions of Windows 98 except Windows 98 Second Edition; Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition; all Office 2000 editions; Office XP Developer edition and SQL Server 7, said Tony Goodhew, a product manager in Microsoft's developer division.
"There is a list of products that we can no longer ship as of 2 January, because they include a version of the Microsoft virtual machine that we are no longer able to distribute as part of our settlement with Sun," Goodhew said.
Java is a programming language that allows developers to write applications that can run on any computer regardless of its operating system.
Microsoft's virtual machine allows users to run Java applications on Windows PCs. Other suppliers, including Sun, also make virtual machines for Windows.
By the end of the year, Microsoft will release updated versions of some of its products without the virtual machine so that it can continue to distribute them, Goodhew said.
They will be the Workstation, Server and Enterprise Server editions of Windows NT 4.0; Office XP Professional Edition with FrontPage; Small Business Server 2000; ISA Server 2000 and Publisher 2002, he said.
The companies settled a three-year-old breach of contract lawsuit in January 2001 that Sun had filed against Microsoft.
Sun, the creator of Java, accused Microsoft of violating a licensing and distribution agreement by distributing a version of Java that was not compatible with Sun's.
As part of the settlement, Microsoft paid Sun $20m and agreed to a plan to retire products that included its allegedly incompatible Java distribution.
Earlier this year, Microsoft and Sun agreed to extend another deadline related to the settlement. The agreement allowed Microsoft to continue supporting its virtual machine until 30 September, to give its customers more time to stop using the software.
However, the company decided to phase out the products now.
"As part of our settlement and licence extension with Sun, we can only modify the Microsoft virtual machine until 30 September," Goodhew said.
"After that date we will not be able to modify the virtual machine for any reason, including security. We will not ship products that include a piece of software we cannot provide security fixes for."
Although the products will no longer be available in the channel or for download from Microsoft's Developer Network (MSDN), existing users will still be able to use them.
Users can also continue to buy licences for the products, for example to install it on more computers from a existing CD or a corporate network.
"This is not making anyone upgrade. If you are a company and you decide that you need another Windows 98 licence for some reason, you will be able to get another licence," Goodhew said.
The full list of products that Microsoft will retire from the channel as of 15 December are: Office XP Developer; Visio 2000; BackOffice Server 2000; Office 2000 Developer; Office 2000 Tools; Office 2000 Multilingual; Office 2000 Premium SR-1; Office 2000 Service Pack 2; Outlook 2000; Project 2000; SQL Server 7; SQL Server 7 Service Pack 3; Embedded Visual Tools 3.0; Visual Studio 6 MSDE; Internet Explorer 5.5; MapPoint 2002; Visual Studio 6.0 SP3 and SP5; Windows 98; Windows 98 Y2K; Windows 98 Resource Kit; Windows 98 SP1; Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server and Option Pack and Visual Basic for Alpha Systems.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service