Microsoft said it won't include software for running Web pages that use Java in its upcoming version of Windows, a move analysts and legal experts said could cause massive damage to the programming language.
Java lets developers write a software application that can run on a variety of computers, regardless of the underlying operating system. The language is widely used on Web sites and its creator, Sun Microsystems, had hoped to make Java a universal programming language.
Separately, Microsoft launched an uphill battle Wednesday to persuade a federal appeals court to reconsider part of its unanimous June 28 ruling in the landmark antitrust case. Saying the court "overlooked _ or misinterpreted" _ critical evidence, Microsoft filed a motion asking judges to grant it a rehearing on whether the company illegally commingled the software code of its Windows operating systems with its Internet Explorer Web browser.
Microsoft said it feared that computer companies might use the ruling to justify removing certain parts of the software code included in its Windows products, such as code used to run Web browsers and other applications that consumers might find useful.
The question is also critical to Microsoft's coming launch of Windows XP, an updated version of the operating system that is expected to be bundled with several applications, including instant-messaging and a media player. The legality of such bundling has been put into question by the court's ruling.
Analysts predicted that Sun and other Microsoft rivals would use the software giant's decision not to include Java to try to convince the Justice Department that Microsoft is illegally wielding its monopoly power.
Sun spokesman David Harrah would not comment specifically on whether Sun planned to brief government officials about Microsoft's move, but did say the move was "consistent with previous behavior" that the U.S. appeals court recently said was illegal.
Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla said Tuesday the company decided not to include the tools for reading Java programs in Windows XP so it wouldn't violate a legal settlement with Sun.
In January, Sun settled a lawsuit it brought against Microsoft three years ago in U.S. District Court in San Jose. Sun alleged that Microsoft violated the terms of an agreement signed in 1996 by creating a Windows-only version of Java that was incompatible with other software.
Under the agreement, Microsoft agreed to no longer license from Sun any current or new versions of Java, but it would have been allowed to distribute products carrying outdated versions of Java for seven years.
Howard University law professor Andy Gavil said Microsoft's abandonment of Java could be seen as a way of squashing its competition.
"This clearly threatens that Java will become a peripheral player," he said, "and if programmers aren't using it on the Internet, it will die, and that just enhances the dominance of Microsoft."
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia addressed Microsoft's use of Java in its ruling last month. The court unanimously overturned the court-ordered breakup of Microsoft but upheld the trial judge's finding that the software giant violated antitrust laws by muscling hardware and software companies into giving its software preferential treatment.
The court said that making an incompatible version of Java was not illegal, but said that its agreements with software vendors to use only the Microsoft-compatible Java version was illegal.
_ Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.
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