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Intel, Sun sit down over Java

The rivals announce a deal aimed at ensuring that their mobile products will work better together over the next few years.

Rivals Sun Microsystems and Intel on Monday announced a deal set to ensure that their mobile products will work better together over the next few years.

Under deal terms, chipmaker Intel will get a look at the secrets to Sun's popular Java programming for wireless devices, which cell phone service providers use to sell downloadable ring tones, games and other add-ons. Intel will then fine-tune its Xscale processors so that Java applications can run faster and use less power.

"The Xscale family of processors will be very relevant in this space," said Sun senior director Juan Dewar. He added that handset makers, including Nokia and Motorola, will see the results of the deal later this month.

The partnership could mean that relations between Sun and Intel are warming up. The two companies compete in the server market. A 1990s arrangement to bring Sun's Solaris operating system to Intel's Itanium processor ended in a messy divorce. However, Sun last month began selling some servers using Intel's Xeon processors.

"We're enemies on a lot of fronts," an Intel representative said. "We haven't worked together in this segment in the past."

Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), a version of Java software for wireless devices, has become the dominant choice for carriers that sell downloads. Palm Solutions Group, which on Monday said it licensed a Java Virtual Machine from IBM, is the latest to adopt J2ME.

Meanwhile, Intel's Xscale processors, which are growing in popularity, are being used inside handhelds from Palm, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.

Cell phone providers worldwide are betting a portion of their future on selling downloadable software to their subscribers. The goal is to replace the revenue that carriers lose as they continue to slash the cost of a phone call because of intense competition.

Some Asian carriers, including NTT DoCoMo in Japan, have reported enormous successes. But similar efforts by U.S. carriers have met with a decidedly chilly reception from the United States' 140 million wireless dialers.