Sun, Microsoft wrangle for TV turf

Sun Microsystems and its allies gained a victory this week in establishing Java technology in TV set-top boxes, but rival Microsoft snapped up a Sun executive and countered with its own technology. On Sun's side, the server maker and allies--including Matsushita, Texas Instruments, Siemens, Philips Electronics, Ericsson, Nokia and Intel--approved a version of Java for lower-end set-top boxes. The move could further Java use among cable operators looking for capabilities such as customizing programming guides or taking audience votes for favorite performers.

But Microsoft said this week it has hired a former Sun executive, James Van Loo, for its effort to promote its own TV technology. Van Loo, who worked on digital TV standards for Sun, left the firm March 26, a Sun representative said. Now he is managing Microsoft's program for OpenCable Application Platform, the cable TV industry's software standard for interactive set-top box services. The moves indicate that Sun and Microsoft remain rivals despite their settling a major Java-related legal dispute in April with a pact that provides for some technology cooperation. Sun and Microsoft have battled for years for dominance in mobile phones, servers, desktop computers, automobiles and other computing areas.

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