High-end computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. announced on Wednesday a free software initiative aimed at undercutting Microsoft Corp. in the battle to set the standards of the next-generation Internet.
The battleground between Sun and Microsoft's .NET initiative is the layer of software that will form the backbone of the next generation Internet, and Sun will give away a key part, called an application server, that runs on Microsoft systems as well as the hit operating system, Linux.
Sun and Microsoft see a world of "Web services" in which clever software anticipates users' needs, such as automatically ordering parts for a factory that is running low or finding directions to an appointment listed in a business person's calendar.
For that to happen, a layer of backbone software must stitch together computers that run operating systems and translate data between applications.
Sun has a good start, because its Java platform runs programs while sitting on top of many operating systems, including Windows, while Windows programs run only on Windows.
The next step is aimed at cementing the ascendance of Java, despite Microsoft plans to phase out support.