Unlikely, according to TIME San Francisco bureau chief Michael Krantz. "It's difficult to imagine Sun signing a contract that lets Microsoft create a proprietary version of Java." Sun argues that its Redmond rival has "polluted" its precious code; Microsoft calls that claim a "publicity stunt." Whatever the verdict in this convoluted case, the jury's still out on what part Java will play in the rest of our online lives. "It depends," says Krantz, "on whether desktop PCs or components are the future." If network computing takes off, Sun will have the last laugh. But if that big beige motherboard-and-monitor monolith is still sitting in your study 10 or 20 years down the line, chances are Bill Gates will still be in control.
As if Microsoft didn't have enough trouble with its government antitrust suit, Tuesday marked the beginning of another legal showdown -- this one with archrival Sun Microsystems, inventors of the revolutionary cross-platform programming language called Java. The long-awaited lawsuit, which is so complex that the judge had to be given tutorials, boils down to this: Who's in charge of the information age's lingua franca? When Microsoft licensed the technology from Sun, did they also buy the right to do what Microsoft does best -- suck it into the Windows operating empire?