How Microsoft Could Get Out of Shipping Java

by Marc Hedlund

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I could be wrong, but reading the order (PDF link) requiring Microsoft to ship Java with Windows, it looks like Microsoft has an out, of sorts:

Abandon the .NET Frameworks.

Paragraph 10(a) of the order defines the "Windows PC Operating System" (in part) as any Microsoft OS that "incorporates all or a portion of the .NET Framework, or for which Microsoft offers or distributes all or a portion of the .NET Framwork for automatic or optional installation." Similar language defines Internet Explorer. So, if Microsoft drops the .NET Framework altogether -- or perhaps, just makes this a technology users would need to buy as a separate product or install just as Java is installed today -- they can go on shipping Windows (which would then fall outside of this definition) and MSIE without Java and prevent Sun from making any gains through this order. If you take the more open interpretation, Microsoft could sell .NET as part of, say, Visual Studio.NET and allow developers to ship a runtime with applications (just as is done for Java applications today), and not have to ship Java with Windows or MSIE.

Obviously, this seems like a very unlikely scenario -- first, Microsoft will appeal this order and I suspect they will win on appeal; and second, Microsoft has invested an enormous amount in the .NET Framework, and without .NET they have no immediate answer to Java's success with developers. They could reasonably judge that this would create a greater long-term harm for them.

On the other hand, some reports on this order have suggested that this is an enormous victory for Sun, one that will enable them to ride Microsoft's distribution to great success. If Microsoft were to lose its appeals and did believe Sun stood to gain an enormous territorial advantage through this order, maybe their long-term position would be furthered by making this battle a stalemate. I find it interesting that the order gives them that option; it should not have, and Sun's lawyers should have argued (or should have argued more strenuously) against any back door exit.


2003-01-21 12:33:11
Back Door or Demolition?
My understanding of .NET is that most of its value is derived from pervasive distribution of the runtime, and that can only reasonably be achieved by bundling it in with the OS. So I don't see MS taking that option given how poorly other attempts to diversify away from the Windows/Office monopoly have fared.

I agree that this is a possible approach to avoiding the order, but I think you may be underestimating how damaging it would be for Microsoft to abandon (or rather to change the pervasiveness of) .NET. I'd compare it more to burning the house down than to leaving by a back door.

Consider that .NET is about the only technology which Microsoft has sold recently which has gathered any acclaim from outside the Microsoft tent: XBox has not done too well (particularly outside the US), and they've made no headway on phones. .NET, on the other hand, has garnered not one but two Open Source clones, and even Microsoft have pushed it as being cross-platform with the Rotor distribution.

Still, you could yet be right. I wouldn't put it past them.

2003-01-21 12:49:17
By their logic, they shouldn't include .Net at all
When Microsoft first announced that it was dropping the Java Virtual Machine from Windows XP, Microsoft argued that since the JVM could be downloaded, it would help ensure that users would always have the latest version. "It's a small extra step", said Microsoft's Tony Goodhew, "Our expectation is this will have no impact on developer's choice. There's no conspiracy theory here."

If that's the case, why don't they do the same with the .Net runtimes? Because it isn't the case, and they know it. Microsoft's key selling point has been convenience, as manifest in the tight integration of their offerings and support in the channel. They would never leave the keystone for their web services strategy as a download or separate product, because then it wouldn't be clean, easy, or ubiquitous for the majority of their market.

Tony Goodhew is just another liar and cheat coming from a culture of liars and cheats. I'll agree that there was no conspiracy theory only because a conspiracy involves more than one participant. Baldly attacking Java is just Microsoft being Microsoft.

2003-01-21 12:51:40
Back Door or Demolition?
I'd compare it more to burning the house down than to leaving by a back door.

I'm sure the .NET team would see it that way! I guess it would all hinge on how damaging MS thought shipping Java would be to them.

Thinking about it more, I can't really see them completely abandoning .NET at this point -- but if they could remove .NET from Windows (ship it separately) and get out of the order that way, I'd think they would at least consider it. Your point about "pervasive distribution of the runtime" is well taken, but maybe not as important a goal as making sure Java doesn't leap out of the enterprise and onto the desktop.

2003-01-26 13:46:28
java applets' resurrection?
I don't think the 21 Mb download of the .NET runtime will be a viable solution for Microsoft at all. They must put the runtime in service packs, and they will, if they want .NET to succeed as a client-side development solution. Java itself was born as a client-side solution (do you remember... applets?) but it's now a server-side success. This judgment could possibly raise from the dead java applets for building interactive web application.
2003-01-26 14:16:59
java applets' resurrection?
I think you're basically right that a 21 MB download isn't a great option for anyone, but after posting this weblog I had another thought: they could ship the .Net Framework as a component of MS Office, and achieve pretty much the same effect.
2003-01-30 08:31:40
If .NET is available in any form MS have to distribute Java with Windows
the definition says "either incorporates..or offers..distributes", this covers separating it from the OS and selling it. If .NET is available in any form MS have to distribute Java with Windows. As for dumping the framework no chance, too much has been invested in it.