To help spur the use of Java on PCs running the XP operating system, Sun is striking up deals with major Web sites that will make the latest version of Java Virtual Machine available as a simple download, said Rich Green, Sun's vice-president and general manager of Java Software.
Green did not reveal which companies will take part in the project, but said Web sites owned by the likes of Yahoo and AOL Time Warner would make good partners for Sun.
"We are focusing our energy on 20 or 30 sites that would give Java to anyone for free," Green said. "Yahoo sponsors a lot of Java-based games. They would be motivated to keep that site fresh."
Java is popular among software developers in part because it can run on a wide range of computing platforms with little changes to an application's underlying code. The technology can be used to develop applications ranging from games that run on cell phones to sophisticated business programs that sit on high-end servers.
While its position on small computing devices and big servers appears strong, Java's future on the PC has faced uncertainty. Microsoft and Sun have battled over the technology since 1997, primarily because Sun felt Microsoft was making changes to Java that would limit its ability to run on any platform.
The companies squared off in a lengthy lawsuit and eventually settled the matter in January. As part of the settlement, Microsoft agreed to pay Sun $20m (£13.8m) and was limited to using an older version of Java in its products.
Following the dispute, Microsoft decided not to include a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with Windows XP. A JVM is a program that sits on a user's PC and allows them to run Java applications. Without a JVM, users are unable to run Java applets, such as stock tickers and games, that are used on some Web sites.
PC makers such as Compaq and Dell have said they will include a JVM with their Windows XP machines. Compaq and Dell, however, use an older version of the JVM made by Microsoft. Sun is in talks with five or six of the major OEMs to get a more updated JVM included with Windows XP, Green said.
"If it worked out, they would probably put the JVM on the second or third wave of the XP rollout," Green said.
Sun also hopes to persuade leading Web sites to offer a JVM that users can download to their desktop and notebook PCs, he said.
Microsoft may be forced to include a more recent version of the JVM with Windows XP in any case, if the District of Columbia and the nine states that chose not to settle with Microsoft in the US government's antitrust case have their way. A set of remedies proposed by the plaintiffs includes a provision that would require Microsoft to include a JVM that is Windows compatible with the latest version of Java.
"We would obviously like that because it fulfils the offer we have had outstanding for a long time," Green said. "All we are asking from any licensee is that you get out the latest stuff in a set amount of time from its release and you run the compatibility tests."