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Java to appear in next-gen DVD players

Sun announces that Java, a technology originally conceived for consumer electronics devices, will be built into Blu-ray Disc players.

SAN FRANCISCO--Sun Microsystems' Java technology will be built into Blu-ray DVD players, executives said on Monday, a development that advances the technology in the consumer electronics market for which Sun originally developed the software.

"The Blu-ray Disc Association, the standards body for the format, has decided it will adopt Java for the interactivity standards," said Yasushi Nishimura, director of Panasonic's Research and Development Company of America, speaking at Sun's JavaOne trade show here. "This means that all Blu-ray Disc player devices will be shipped equipped with Java."

Java will be used for control menus, interactive features, network services and games, Nishimura said.

Java is a software infrastructure that lets the same program run on a wide variety of computer systems. That can be useful for developers who have to deal with different foundations--Windows servers and mainframes, for example, or cell phones with different processors. In the case of devices such as DVD players, using Java means programmers won't have to worry about the chip or operating system in each player.

In its infancy as a project code-named Green, Java was conceived as a technology for consumer electronics devices. When Sun debuted Java publicly 10 years ago, it was first used to enhance Web browsing. Later, it found serious footholds for running software on servers and on mobile phones.

Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy referred to the deal in an interview last week. "The new Blu-ray spec is going to put a Java virtual machine in every new next-generation DVD player, and all your DVDs are going to have Java bytecode on it that gets executed," he said.

But the Blu-ray deal isn't a complete victory for Java, because the next-generation DVD format is competing against a specification called HD DVD. Blu-ray's backers, including Panasonic, Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney, are pitted against HD DVD allies, led by Toshiba and supported by media companies Paramount Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, HBO and New Line Cinema.

Recent discussions to unify the camps haven't proved fruitful so far, setting the stage for a drawn-out struggle like the one between VHS and Betamax for videotapes (eventually won by VHS) and between CD-RW and CD+RW for rewritable CD-ROMs. Neither side won the CD standard struggle, meaning consumers have had to grapple with incompatible drives and discs.

The inclusion of Java in Blu-ray DVD drives will enable DVD updates over the network, Java founder James Gosling said.

"Part of the DVD standard is the players have network ports out of the back," Gosling said. "That gives you the ability to download content. If somebody adds subtitles in Croatian, you don't have to bake those into the disc. You can do that afterwards."