Microsoft's planned acquisition of WebTV Networks. will give the privately held company access to Microsoft's technology, but will not stall product developments using the Java programming language, company officials have promised.
Microsoft this week announced plans to buy WebTV for US$425 million in cash and stock to make it a subsidiary of the software powerhouse.
"We will continue to develop PersonalJava for Web TV," says Phil Goldman, senior vice president of engineering at WebTV.
"We are committed to evolve PersonalJava and make it work well on Web TV," he says. "Java is a key factor on the Web. You don't have full Web compatibility if you don't have full support for Java."
Web TV last week announced it is developing products using Sun Microsystems' PersonalJava, a new, specialized API sub-set of the object-oriented multimedia programming language, which is considered a rival product to Microsoft's programming tools.
Web TV officials say the major advantage of the merger between the two companies is that it gives WebTV access to Microsoft's technology, but specifically the WindowsCE operating system, originally developed for hand-held devices.
Stopping short of announcing a new product, executives say it is likely that a WebTV running Windows CE will appear.
"That is the promise," says Alan Yates, senior product manager for Microsoft's consumer platforms division when asked if WebTV would incorporate the WindowsCE operating system.
Officials reject the notion that Web TV had to be changed in order to accommodate WindowsCE.
"Microsoft has been very sensitive to the design outline of [Web TV]," Yates says, adding that it requires a small operating system on a low cost hardware platform.
"As we learn more about WinCE, we are very impressed with its ability to deliver a lot in a small space," Goldman says.
WebTV, which allows users to access Web content via TV sets and TV set-top-boxes, will also incorporate Microsoft's Explorer Web browser, but officials declined to provide a timetable or exact product plans.
Furthermore, Web TV in the long run will accommodate digital TV technology, but company officials have yet to provide details.
"We are certainly interested in the development around digital TV, but it's too early to announce anything," says Bruce Leak, co-founder and COO of WebTV Networks.
Microsoft's Yates says the company sees a lot of potential for cross marketing activities involving WebTV, Web content providers and Microsoft's MSNBC, the television channel the company owns together with NBC.