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Microsoft Reverses Course, Will Include Java VM In Windows XP--For Now

Microsoft has reversed direction and decided to integrate Java support in Windows XP Service Pack 1 due this summer. However, Microsoft also delivered a menacing message to rival Sun: there will be no Java support in Windows after Jan. 1, 2004.

The Redmond, Wash. software giant announced on Tuesday that it will include Java virtual machine as part of the Windows XP Service Pack due later this summer.

The announcement is a reversal of another made last July by Microsoft that it would pull Java support from Windows XP and instead would offer users a plug-in from Microsoft's site to enable Web pages using Java to work on the system. At the time, Microsoft defended the move by citing a January 2001 settlement to another lawsuit Sun filed against Microsoft in 1997 over Microsoft's implementation of Java. That settlement agreement restricted what Microsoft could do in its implementation.

As part of another private antitrust lawsuit filed against Microsoft by Sun in March, Sun sought a preliminary injunction requiring Microsoft to include a current Java virtual machine (JVM) in the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft said the decision to include the JVM this week is a direct result of the latest legal entanglement with Sun, but Microsoft plans to disband support for Java in Windows following Jan. 1, 2004.

The java virtual machine "will be distributed in the default installation in all channels of distribution," according to a spokesman from Microsoft, noting that Sun's latest legal action prompted Microsoft to remove the installation-on-demand component that was originally included in Windows XP.

"Due to Sun's most recent lawsuit, which claimed the installation on demand option for Java was in violation of the settlement agreement between Sun and Microsoft, we wanted to take this issue off the table in the new lawsuit while minimizing any potential impact on our customers," the spokesman said.

However, Microsoft noted it is a short-term concession and was clear that it is prepared to continue fighting Sun and its insistence that it include the native implementation of Java in Windows.

"The decision to include our Java virtual machine in SP1 does not change plans to remove Java support from Windows," the spokesman said. "The decision to remove Microsoft's Java implementation was made because of Sun's strategy of using the legal system to compete with Microsoft. The settlement agreement between the companies prevents Microsoft from making any changes--including any security fixes--to our Java implementation after January 1, 2004. We will not put our customers or Windows at risk, so you can anticipate that there will be no Java in Windows from that point forward."

Microsoft announced earlier this year that it would provide an easy option in Windows XP that would allow users to install Java on demand.

Now that's out, and the Java virtual machine is in--at least until 2004.

One solution provider said the decision will make it easier for end users and developers for at least the short term. "The ability to run Java-based programs natively on XP will open a lot of doors to the development world," said Rich Figer, vice president at S.B. Stone, a systems integrator in Cleveland.

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