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INTEL PREVIEWED its Pentium III chip in San Jose, California, last week and confirmed this Friday as the official launch date for the new processor. Chips running at 450 and 500Mhz will be immediately available in systems, and chips with speeds of up to 800Mhz are due to be released by the end of the year. Compaq said its Pentium III systems would start at under $2,000. Intel also announced price cuts of up to 25 per cent on its Celeron family of processors.

The Pentium III chip is designed to improve the way that audio and video streaming and 3D graphics are used over the Web. It should also improve voice recognition performance and, in the words of the Intel CEO, Craig Barrett, "bring a brand-new user experience" to computing.

THE JUDGE hearing Sun Microsystems' claim against Microsoft over the terms of the latter's use of Java has clarified the preliminary injunction he issued in November. Last week he said the injunction does not apply to Java technologies developed independently of Sun Microsystems. Sun sued Microsoft last year, arguing that introducing Windows-specific features to Java polluted the concept of the language and broke the terms of Microsoft's licence. Judge Ronald Whyte's preliminary injunction required Microsoft to alter its Java products, including Windows 98 and Internet Explorer, while the case continues.

The clarification has pleased Microsoft. "Sun is trying to prevent Microsoft from developing Java technologies, even without using Sun source code," Microsoft associate general counsel Tom Burt said. "This is an option that is becoming more interesting in light of Sun's efforts to limit innovation and make Java a clearly proprietary technology."

SONY UNVEILED a new, 128-bit multimedia chip running at 250Mhz with built-in hardware for decoding 3D graphics and digital video at a microprocessor conference in San Francisco last week. Although the company refused to make any comment on its intended application, most commentators think that the new chip will be used as the heart of the next generation Sony PlayStation.

The current PlayStation uses a 32-bit processor running at 33Mhz, which is the same specification it was launched with nearly four years ago.

THE ANTI-TRUST trial brought against Microsoft by the Department of Justice and a coalition of states continued last week with Microsoft vice- president Brad Chase agreeing that video evidence used the previous week had skipped over the processes needed for a computer user to download and install Netscape Navigator from the Web. The video had been intended to show that the Internet itself opened the browser market up to fair competition, but it contained errors and omissions that Chase acknowledged and apologised for.

It is the third time in the case that video evidence from Microsoft has been successfully challenged in court.

APPLE COMPUTER has posted a new version of its Java virtual machine on its website (www.apple.com) for free download. Claiming 100 per cent compatibility with Sun standards, the Mac OS Runtime for Java 2.1 (MRJ) is five times faster than earlier versions. It has support for AppleScript as well as QuickTime for Java, which will be incorporated into new versions of QuickTime. MRJ 2.1 runs on PowerPCs with OS 7.6.1 or later.

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