MS appeals Java decision, users ambivalent

Maybe it's the principle that counts. Many Windows customers and analysts yawned when the order came down that Microsoft must ship Java with XP. While some people appreciate the convenience, others say the news is "small potatoes."

The fact that Microsoft must now ship a Sun-compatible Java runtime with Windows is a shining victory for Sun, but it's doubtful that many Windows administrators will work up a lather over the news.

A U.S. District Court judge earlier this week made it official: Microsoft has 120 days (from Feb. 4) to comply with an order to ship an up-to-date version of Java with its XP operating system. Microsoft, as expected, has appealed the decision.

There are Windows customers working with Java who are pleased about the decision. "We care about this because typically with Java, it's Sun that has pushed the standards," said Patrick McCartney, GFE flight project manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He said that the decision means NASA developers would no longer have to take the extra step to download the Java code.

Other customers, though not developing in Java, are simply interested in everything Microsoft does because their investments in Windows are so extensive. "We currently are not developing in Java," said Scott Saunders, MIS director of systems at Paxson Communication Corp., West Palm Beach, Fla. "The decision, though, might provide some compatibility, which benefits us in the long run if it is implemented properly."

But some Windows customers greeted the decision with ambivalence. They always knew how to get Java if a need arose. "When it was excluded, we just went to Sun's site to download it," said Steven Conley, an engineering manager at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, Va.

Some analysts say they don't see the court's decision giving much advantage to IT managers. "The companies that have XP are getting along fine without Java," said Charles King, an analyst at the Mountain View, Calif.-based Sageza Group.

The judge's order could create an opportunity for some Java developers to make products for the XP platform that they may not otherwise have done. But the decision seems more a part of the Solomonic process of pleasing one company, and then the other.

"In terms of the real world, the decision is pretty small potatoes," King said.

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