Thought for the day:The coffee wars of Sun and Microsoft

The decision to force Microsoft to carry the latest version of Java in Windows and Internet Explorer has left a bitter taste,...

The decision to force Microsoft to carry the latest version of Java in Windows and Internet Explorer has left a bitter taste, says Simon Moores.

"A new dark age, made more sinister... by the lights of perverted science."

This quote from Winston Churchill could apply to the latest turn of events in the Java feud between Microsoft and Sun last month.

Microsoft may have fought them on the beaches but it now has its back to the sea. Sun Microsystems, in a second victory, has won a preliminary injunction in its own private antitrust case against Microsoft, this time requiring the unhappy loser to carry Sun's Java and not Microsoft's own Cappuccino - a pun on the C# language for those of you following the .net story.

Once again, Microsoft has faced an unsympathetic, if not hostile judge. On this occasion, Judge Frederick Motz likened Microsoft's treatment of Java to the "kneecapping" efforts of Tonya Harding's ice-skating rival, adding with a true American flourish, that: "Capitalism is about making money, but it's also about something else. It's also about pride of product."

Motz continued: "If .net eventually proves victorious, it should be because of .net's superior qualities, not because Microsoft leveraged its PC monopoly to create market conditions in which it is unfairly advantaged."

Sticking with the argument that Microsoft has no sinister designs on Java, the company's witness, University of Chicago economics professor Kevin Murphy, testified that Microsoft's software market advantage doesn't justify forcing it to include Java in its products.

This is rubbish, say Sun's lawyers, who claim Microsoft is preventing the growth of Java. Hardly an endangered species, Microsoft countered, pointing out that nearly half of the software development community already uses Java.

The central legal issue in question is whether Sun successfully established before the court what is known as "the standard of harm". In other words, can damage to the progress of Java be demonstrated without equivocation? Judge Motz was far less clear whether that legal standard had been met.

Microsoft would rather have its teeth slowly pulled than see Sun's purer flavour of Java replace its own "optimised" but very popular brew. Strangely enough, I have next to me an original first issue of my own JavaVision Magazine, from 1997, in which I ask: "Who is going to win the much-publicised row between Microsoft and Sun?"

Six years ago, which is as long as this scrap has been going on in the courts, Microsoft is quoted as saying: "We do not believe the world will converge to a single programming language any time soon."

Or a single platform either. And that was in 1997.

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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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