Microsoft has explained how it proposes to distribute Sun's Java, should it lose its current appeal against a District Court order instructing it to do so. The company also yesterday was granted a stay of that order, pending the appeal, so it all remains up in the air. But still, we now have The Beast's script for how its own VM will pass away, and how Sun's JRE will replace it, should the worst come to the worst.
Note that as the appeal is likely to take place next month, the Java distribution document is already just a little out of date. Phase one, it says, is that it will make Sun's JRE available at Windows Update, and it will issue a retread of Windows XP SP1, SP1a, which is the same as SP1 apart from not including Microsoft's VM, in "early February."
Then we get another Service Pack, SP1b, which will include Sun's JRE, in early June. In both these case the Service Packs are intended to be identical to SP1 apart from the adding and subtracting, and for legal reasons it's likely Microsoft will resist adding any fixes or enhancements. If any of these happened to break something Sun-related, there would certainly be trouble.
SP1b will also be available on CD, and the real next Service Pack, SP2, will be out "later in 2003." This will include Sun's JRE, plus standard fixes. Releases with local language support will vary, and you can get more detail on that here.
Sun's JRE will be included in Longhorn, which is currently intended to be out in 2004, Win2k SP4 will also include it, but not the Microsoft VM, and Windows Server 2003 is entirely unaffected, having neither anyway.
Microsoft says its customers don't actually have to do anything about this, with just a couple of provisos they should be aware of. The company won't distribute or update the VM with future products, and won't be able to provide an Initial Setup package for it. This allows it to be installed on a computer that doesn't already have it. The company can only provide updates on Windows Update, and even this depends on the outcome of litigation with Sun.
And this is a sad bit:
"If you already have the Microsoft VM, it will NOT be uninstalled from your computer when future service packs of Windows are installed on your computer. However, future service packs will set the Sun JRE software as the default handler of APPLET tags which will require you to reset the default if you wish to use the Microsoft VM."
We've heard of software that does that. Depending on the appeal, it may be none of this comes to pass. But if it does, it'll clearly be time for VM developers to jump ship. ®