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Sun to Tighten Reins on Use of Java

Technology: Computer maker takes steps to keep popular software from being controlled by Microsoft.

December 11, 1996|From Bloomberg Business News

Sun Microsystems Inc. is taking steps to regulate the use of its popular Java Internet language to keep it from being controlled by Microsoft Corp.

Sun is expected today to unveil requirements that would give the Mountain View-based computer maker tighter rein on how Java is used. Sun lined up 100 companies, including Oracle Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and Apple Computer Inc., to back the plan, dubbed the "100% Pure Java Initiative."

Java hit the Internet 19 months ago, jazzing up the global computer network and creating a buzz about Sun, whose share price has tripled since Java's release. Sun's shares rose $1.625 on Tuesday to close at $61.375 on Nasdaq.

Some analysts and developers say Sun could have claimed a bigger chunk of the Internet and kept Microsoft at bay if it had monitored Java's use and fixed problems, such as slowness, that dog the program.

"Sun has done a pretty bad job around Java," said Stan Dohlberg, an analyst at Forrester Research, a market researcher.

Microsoft and other developers, including IBM, Oracle and Apple, license Java from Sun for a small fee. The language lets developers create programs that make the most of the Internet's graphics capabilities--such as scrolling sports tickers and constantly updating graphs and charts.

Sun's lack of attention once Java was licensed let Microsoft create technology that fixes Java's problems only for programs that run on Microsoft's Windows operating systems. This encouraged developers to write programs with Java's popular features only for Microsoft software.

"Microsoft is walking away with the best-looking content and best Web sites," said John Robb of Forrester.

Sun said Microsoft was invited to join the initiative but hadn't made a decision whether it would or not. Microsoft denied that it had been asked to be a part of today's announcement.

From its inception, Java represented a threat to archrival Microsoft's hold on the personal computer software industry, because a program written in the language is intended to run on any computer operating system.

Java also threatened Microsoft's dominance in the desktop computer market because Java programs are stored on central computers and used by PCs to perform a specific task. Microsoft's software, in contrast, is stored on each individual PC.

By linking Java to its popular Windows operating system, Microsoft is trying to keep developers writing programs exclusively for Windows. It's this splintering of Java and linking it to a specific operating system that Sun is trying to prevent.

Sun and its partners plan to publish a book on how to write Java programs that run on any operating system, hold training conferences, and provide testing and certification for Java applications.

Sun said developers urged it to set up the initiative so that the programs they wrote would work on various operating systems. Sun expects the market for Java programs to take off next year.

"Java has gotten wildly successful," said Jon Kannegaard, Sun's vice president of software products.

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