The company has posted the beta version of Internet Explorer 3.0a for Windows 3.1, the first Microsoft browser for the operating system to include a Java Virtual Machine for running applications written in the Sun Microsystems programming language.
With the release, the company is making good on its promise to support Java on 16-bit Windows, though it is delivering the technology almost six months after it introduced Java for Windows 95. Netscape has offered Java support in its Navigator 3.0 browser for Windows 3.1 since December.
Both companies were hampered in their development efforts by the complexities of getting Java to work on Windows 3.1. Java applets typically require multithreading, a capability not supported by Windows 3.1.
"We enhanced the internal architecture to handle our new Java Virtual Machine," said Dave Fester, product manager of Microsoft. "We're trying to be the best of breed in each case."
Windows 3.1 is still a crucial element of Microsoft's Internet plans. There are an estimated 60 million users of Windows 3.1 on the Web, or 40 percent of all people on the Web, said Fester, citing a study by Zona Research.
Microsoft today also introduced a new version of Explorer with Java support for Windows NT 3.51, an older version of Microsoft's NT operating system.
Internet Editor Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.