Macromedia has announced that Flash will be supported in Microsoft's forthcoming operating system, Windows XP.

Microsoft has elected to end built-in support for the plug-ins technology originally developed by Netscape in its future browser offerings that will ship with its OS. As a result of an agreement in court between the companies, it has also chosen to cease bundling support for Sun's Java technologies in future browsers and operating systems.

Microsoft will employ ActiveX to run browser plug-ins. Since this was announced Apple has issued an update for QuickTime that will let it run on Windows-based systems using ActiveX.

Flash technology lets Internet browsers view animated cartoons or dynamic Web sites created with Macromedia's Flash technology.

The player has been shipping with Windows operating systems and Internet Explorer for four years, and is supported by roughly 97 per cent of Web users, a Macromedia spokesman said.

Macromedia designed Flash as a tool for Web developers to create vector graphics and animation. The technology has become popular because Flash files are smaller than bit-map images, and can be delivered across the Web quickly. They can also be resized without loss of image quality.

Windows XP has come in for criticism from some Mac users for its apparent similarities with Mac OS X. It includes applications that let users burn CDs, play music and edit images.