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Microsoft Announces Plan to License Java

SEATTLE--In a surprising bow to the open roots of the Internet, Microsoft officials today revealed they will license Sun Microsystems' Java Internet programming language and add extensions to it to make it usable with the Microsoft Network (MSN) online service.

In addition, Microsoft chair Bill Gates announced that the company will offer free access to its Net browser, Internet Explorer 2.0. "When we say it's free, we mean it. We don't mean for 30 days. Our browser's free, that's the deal," said Gates. Currently, Internet Explorer is sold as part of Microsoft Plus Pack.

Tom Kucharvy, principal from Boston-based Summit Strategies said Microsoft will benefit from offering free products. "Microsoft has a tremendous opportunity in that it can give products for free that other vendors in the Internet community have to charge for," he said.

Microsoft also announced that it has signed a deal allowing CompuServe to license Internet Explorer 2.0. CompuServe will include a customized version of the browser in upcoming versions of the company's software including Internet In A Box, Internet In A Box for Kids, and Mosaic In A Box. In January CompuServe members will have access to the Internet Explorer from CompuServe's Web site.

Despite Microsoft's plans to license the Java technology from Sun, the company will add extensions to the technology to make it work with MSN. Those extensions will be open and public, Gates stressed. Applications built using those extensions will run under Netscape Communication's Navigator browser, along with others, said Gates. However, Navigator will need to eventually incorporate those extensions in order to fully display the page or application, Gates said. "You wouldn't get the audio, but you'd get the basics. It's a matter of degree," said Gates.