Sun's new software, called Jini, is designed to be included in PC peripherals. Originally expected to be released in February, the technology basically extends the Java programming language to include devices that otherwise wouldn't have the ability to run Java programs.
Devices would be able to pass snippets of programs, called applets, to each other, according to Sun. This could enable new functions to be added to printers, cameras, and other devices attached to a network.
For example, a user connecting a laptop to the network for the first time would find that a Jini-enabled printer would automatically send a small program called a "driver" that allows any kind of laptop to use the printer (given that it already has the ability to run Java). Normally, the operating system itself (such as Microsoft's Windows) contains this information.
"We're trying to provide a view of your computing environment as the network and services that exist on network," said Samir Mitra, director of marketing for Jini.
The move is the latest by the Palo Alto, California-based Sun to try to reduce Microsoft's influence in setting software standards.
In essence, instead of pushing people into buying network computers (NCs) that download the operating system and applications, Sun is touting a technology that turns devices attached to the network into NCs. Sun, Oracle, and others originally hoped that NCs would oust PCs in corporate networks, but response to the concept has been tepid so far.
Sun said it will provide source code for Jini to consumer electronics and peripherals makers as well as network service providers and corporations in a manner similar to Netscape's decision to allow free access to its Communicator browser code.
Officially, Jini is no more than a research project at this point in time. By revealing the project, Sun hopes that other companies will participate in the refining the technology.
Reuters contributed to this report.