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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sun and Microsoft Corp. Locked in Language War

Sun Microsystems Inc. has lashed out at Microsoft Corp., saying that it would not give up its ownership of the Java computer language, as Microsoft and other companies have recently suggested, in order to have it officially certified as an international standard.


Speaking to reporters during a conference call Monday, Alan Baratz, president of Sun's Javasoft division, contended that Microsoft was attempting to cripple Java because it was a threat to the popularity of Microsoft's Windows software.


"Every single thing that Microsoft says and does is designed to protect their monopoly," he said.


His remarks were the latest piece of vitriol in an acrimonious competition to control computer software development around the world.


Sun, along with its principal allies IBM, Netscape Communications Corp. and Oracle Corp., are trying to establish Java as an alternative to Windows.


The language has gained a wide following because, unlike Windows, the same Java program can run on many different types of computers and with different software operating systems, dramatically reducing software development costs.


But many analysts say that Sun's approach is not that different from Microsoft's. "For the benefit of the market, we need neither of these guys to win," said Amy Wohl, an industry analyst and editor of Trendsletter.


Although Sun owns Java, which is only a few years old, it has freely licensed it to other companies, including Microsoft, and says that it has opened the development process so that outsiders can make suggestions as to how the language should mature.


Earlier this year, Sun applied to the International Standards Organization, which is based in Geneva, to begin the process of designating Java an official standard.


Such certification would help Sun make the case that Java is an open technology and make Java programs more salable to many governments, which have rules that encourage their bureaucracies to support standards. But Sun has taken an unusual approach; it hopes to win International Standards Organization approval while maintaining ownership of Java. Last week, Microsoft, Intel Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Digital Equipment Corp. released an open letter calling on Sun to turn Java over to the ISO. "They are trying to have their cake and eat it too," said Charles Fitzgerald, a group program manager at Microsoft. "It comes down to: Can a single company be trusted to control a standards process? The answer is they can't."


Fitzgerald said that because of the fierce rivalry between the two companies, Sun had rejected every suggestion Microsoft had made. He said that if Sun succeeded in convincing the ISO to certify Java as a standard while allowing the company to retain its ownership, then Microsoft might try to do the same thing with Windows. Soon, he concluded, every company would follow suit, and standards would mean little.


Baratz countered that the open letter from the four companies was a "publicity stunt" orchestrated by Microsoft. "Microsoft is interested in one thing and one thing only," he said, referring to Java, "that is fragmenting the technology and destroying the brand."


Sun's first attempt to submit Java for consideration by the ISO was rejected in July, when a majority of the delegation from 30 countries suggested that Sun clarify its proposal.


The company filed those clarifications Monday but declined to give up ownership of Java.