Old enemies Sun and Microsoft may find themselves in bed together, thanks to a deal both have signed with a US cable firm. US telecommunications giant TCI is planning to deploy digital set-top boxes to customers in late 1998 and is taking the bold step of using both Windows CE and Java on the devices. However the company may run into trouble, as Java is not yet available on the Windows CE operating system. Last week the company signed an agreement with Sun to use PersonalJava in its digital set-top boxes in order to provide an application environment. One day later, TCI signed a separate with Microsoft to license the Windows CE operating system for five million boxes. Rob Hailstone, chief analyst at Bloor Research, said: "I can't imagine any value in having CE without Java." He maintained that without Java set top box users will be unable to browse all the features on the Web. TCI said that the boxes will boast applications such as Email, interactive advertising, banking, shopping, digital music and video telephony. David Beddow, senior vice president of TCI Ventures Group, told PC Week that Java will take precedence over Microsoft. "What we are talking about is a family of boxes," he said. "The devices that run Java will be at the top of the line." "This is a phenomenal leap forward for the Java platform," proclaimed Scott McNealy, Sun's CEO. "Hundreds of thousands of Java application developers are poised to create the content and application for this (the television and set top box) platform."
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