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MICROSOFT SAID last week that it will release a modified version of Windows 98 and other software to comply with a preliminary injunction given against it by a judge in California to stop selling products that use versions of the Java programming language that do not pass Sun Microsystem's Java tests. The judge said that he issued the ruling because Sun, who brought the case against Microsoft, were likely to prevail in court. Sun have accused Microsoft of violating its 1996 licence to use Java by producing a Windows specific version, and introducing non-standard features into the language that is supposed to be platform-independent. Tom Burt, associate general counsel for Microsoft, said that while the company would comply with the preliminary injunction, executives had 30 days to file any appeal and had not yet decided whether to do so.

A Microsoft spokesman said that the changes would be invisible to users of Windows 98 and would have no effect on how applications worked. Microsoft also said it would strip critical Java programs from its Web browser for Apple Macintosh and Unix machines.

DELL, THE world's leading direct distributor of personal computers and the third largest PC supplier overall behind Compaq and IBM, made a breakthrough to become the leading PC provider to US businesses with more than 500 employees in the third quarter of this year, according to Ziff-Davis Market Intelligence's Projected Market Monitor study.

Dell took 29.8 per cent of the large-business market, compared with 22.6 per cent in the previous quarter, selling 66 per cent more units over a year in which the market grew only 15 per cent. "Dell is making dramatic gains in the very spot where its indirect competitors initially fostered their respective businesses - the large commercial business segment,'' according to Matt Sargent, senior analyst with Z-D Market Intelligence.

BRITISH TELECOM said last week that it will buy a 50 per cent stake in the UK subsidiary of the Excite Internet portal site for $10m. The deal represents a further move by BT to develop its online business interests, beyond providing Internet access, into the revenue generating fields of advertising and online transactions. Earlier this month BT announced a joint venture with the UK division of another portal, Yahoo, to provide Internet access and search tools without a subscription fee.

Under the new agreement, BT will use Excite's Internet technologies as well as its online marketing and advertising sales experience in return for aiding the portal to localise its products and services for the UK Internet market. Excite UK will also market BT's existing Click service as Excite Click - a pay as you go method of accessing the Internet which requires neither registration nor monthly services, but earns revenue from charging a premium on top of the cost of a normal local phone call.

IN WASHINGTON, Microsoft and the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that the purchase of Netscape by AOL supported their respective sides of the anti-trust case. In out of court comments, DOJ representatives portrayed the deal as a defensive "circling of the wagons" against Microsoft. Microsoft said the deal showed that the government was "five steps behind the industry" and that these emerging market forces undermined the basis of the In court, attention turned to documents and e-mails purporting to show Microsoft used unfair pressure to ensure that Internet Service Providers and Web site owners such as Disney and Cnet promoted its browser, rather than Netscape's.

"Disney will promote IE (and no other browser) as the client browser of choice for users of Disney content," said Disney's contract with Microsoft. Evidence also included an internal e-mail from a Microsoft executive who said that: "ISPs have to swear allegiance to IE for typically 75 per cent of all the browsers they distribute in order to get into the referral server."

The government released the documents in support of the testimony of expert witness economist Frederick Warren-Boulton's testimony, a former employee of the DOJ's anti-trust department.

WORK ON a computer language that enables people to communicate using their mother tongue with people who speak other languages, via the Internet, is being carried out by researchers in the Institute of Advanced Studies at Tokyo's United Nations University. More than 120 computer and linguistics experts are working on the Universal Networking Language (UNL). Instead of translating directly between languages, the software converts speech into UNL which can be "deconverted" into any language supported by the system. Users can check the accuracy of the UNL conversion by playing it back in their own language.

"It is not for translating Shakespeare or poetry or even a philosophical text,'' Professor Tarcisio Della Senta of Brazil, director of the Institute, said. He added that it would be useful for "logical texts" such as those used in science and commerce.

The first stage of the project, launched in April 1996, is to create conversion modules for 16 languages: the six official UN languages - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish - as well as German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Mongolian, Portuguese, Swahili and Thai. By 2005 the aim is for all languages that are used by UN members to be supported.

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