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For Apple, it's Java time

Sun and Apple rekindle their relationship, announcing deals to strengthen the ties between Sun's Java and two key Apple technologies, OpenDoc and QuickTime.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) and Apple Computer (AAPL) today rekindled their relationship, announcing deals to strengthen the ties between Sun's Java and two key Apple technologies, OpenDoc and QuickTime, as previously reported by CNET.

The announcements happened at the Networld+Interop trade show in Atlanta and are a further sign of cooperation between the two companies, which were rumored to be in merger talks early this year.

Apple has been a keen supporter of Java, but the company has perhaps been too distracted with its own financial and public relations problems to participate in every one of Sun's Java initiatives. Now, the company is trying to make all of that up by adding its weight to Sun's Java Beans standard and tying the QuickTime audio-video format to Java.

Apple had been conspicuously absent from the March announcement of Java Beans, supported by Sun, IBM, Netscape Communications, and Oracle.

With the initiative, the companies hoped to stave off the influence of Microsoft's ActiveX architecture for creating small, interactive applications for both the Internet and standalone applications.

Similar to ActiveX, Java Beans is a standard set of specifications that allows Java applets to work with programs from various component architectures such as OpenDoc and Microsoft's own OLE (Object Linking and Embedding). Sun and its Java Beans supporters have argued that Java Beans is a more open, cross-platform alternative than ActiveX, a criticism that Microsoft is now trying to deflect by turning ActiveX over to a still unnamed independent standards body.

The Java Beans specification now is in draft form on the Internet.

Apple's support will bind Java more closely to OpenDoc on the Macintosh. Apple's OpenDoc partner, IBM, is focusing on linking Java and OpenDoc on its own OS/2 Warp operating system.

While Apple will help Java Beans become truly cross-platform--an important competitive point up against ActiveX--the integration of QuickTime will bring a crucial capability to Java. So far, Java developers have lacked the critical support of a video format to help programmers combine video and audio elements in their applets. The deal between Sun and Apple will allow developers to easily embed a movie in the widely used QuickTime format into applets.

Player software for QuickTime is already included in Netscape's Navigator 3.0 browser.

Today, Sun and Apple also announced that they would jointly promote mediaLib, an API that boosts the performance of multimedia applications, to microprocessor vendors and software developers.

While it was never determined how close to fruition the Sun-Apple merger talks actually got, Sun was then and is now clearly interested in using Apple's technology to undermine Microsoft's dominance of the PC market.