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Microsoft insults Netscape's Java

Microsoft will next week preview a Java Virtual Machine plug-in as a way of hinting that Netscape's Java support isn't good enough.

Microsoft (MSFT) will next week preview a Java Virtual Machine plug-in that takes aim at Netscape Communcations by implying that its Java support isn't good enough.

At Comdex next week, Microsoft will demonstrate the JVM, a standalone engine for running Java applets, which is meant to replace the JVM inside of Netscape Navigator. The standalone JVM will be available for free downloading by the end of the month, according to sources.

The plug-in is supposed to replace Navigator's Java support, which has received criticism from some developers for being buggy. According to several independent software vendors interviewed today, the Netscape JVM is not as reliable and fast as Microsoft's JVM. Microsoft has lined up a number of independent software vendors to endorse the standalone JVM.

Still, some developers see the announcement of Microsoft's JVM plug-in as more of an effort to stand Netscape up than to really compete with Navigator.

"Microsoft is capitalizing on the fact that there are bugs in the Netscape VM," said Patrick Naughton, vice president of technology at Starwave. "It's announcement-ware."

Netscape is attempting to address the stability and performance glitches in its JVM in Communicator, its forthcoming client software suite. The company has licensed a just-in-time compiler, which speeds up applets, from Symantec.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment.