Facing legal woes over its approach to Java on the East Coast as well as the West, Microsoft launched an all-out assault on the programming language's "write once, run anywhere" qualities last week - an attack the company has been waging for years.
In its antitrust case, the US Department of Justice is trying to show that Microsoft's attempt to distribute a version of Java incompatible with Sun Microsystems' version arose out of its fear that Java's growing popularity would weaken Microsoft's monopoly of the operating system market.
Sun is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Microsoft that charges Microsoft violated the terms of its Java licensing agreement by distributing incompatible implementations of Java.
In court last week, Microsoft attorneys coaxed from James Gosling, creator of the Java cross-platform programming language, an admission that there were problems with Sun's "write once, run anywhere" Java claim.
"This issue of compatibility is a function of time ... it is getting better," Gosling testified.
Sun executives planned to use Java and a Java chip still in development to displace the dominant Windows OS and Intel microchip architecture on desktop PCs. They weighed those goals against the widespread deployment of the Java technology that would come via a Microsoft license.
"Personally, I just don't trust them," Gosling wrote in an e-mail to Sun CEO and president Scott McNealy and others in 1995. "The planet is littered with companies that did deals with Microsoft, expecting to win big but [ending] up getting totally screwed."
Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt said Sun e-mail messages and other documents prove Sun intended to create a new Java-based OS and chip architecture to "kill" Microsoft, Intel, and a host of other high-tech companies.
In an e-mail to employees, McNealy wrote, "Charge! Kill HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple all at once."
Microsoft's lawyers have sought to build a case that its business practices - although considered hard-ball - are no more wicked than those of its competitors. As evidence of that, Microsoft charged that Sun dropped development of its HotJava browser so as not to compete with Netscape.
Microsoft pointed to a memo from Karen Oliphant, a Sun manager, in which she listed "Sun Goals" that included "unify browser efforts; stop competing."
Gosling dismissed the charge, saying Sun's decision was made because Microsoft was giving away its browser.