Microsoft has taken Java support out of Windows XP, meaning XP users will be unable to fully use Web pages that implement Java.

The company has decided to remove the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that enables Internet Explorer to execute Java programs. Microsoft's decision could create a barrier to the development of Java for the Web. The company is promoting its own proprietary .Net platform at Java's expense.

Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla told the Industry Standard that the move does not constitute a withdrawal of Java support. He alleged that users who upgrade from existing Window systems to XP will not have to reinstall JVM, and that PC makers producing new Windows-based machines will be free to install a JVM on top of XP if they wish to support Java.

He also suggested that visitors to Java Web-sites would be offered the chance to download JVM from Microsoft's site. He did not reveal any Microsoft plans to continue to develop JVM.

The decision to discontinue default Windows support of the Java platform follows the January settlement of a lawsuit filed by Sun Microsystems. Sun accused Microsoft of undermining its Java platform by developing a version of Java that was Windows-specific, and incompatible with other Java implementations. Under the terms of that settlement, Microsoft was prevented from upgrading its JVM but was allowed to continue to ship its current version. That is what Microsoft has now decided it won't do.

"Our Java implementation has been frozen to the point where we could not advance it and innovate," Pilla said. "Despite that, we'll make it as easy as possible to get the JVM. Everyone who wants Java support can get it," he concluded. "At the same time, we'll not ship old technology in the operating system."

There is no news as yet on whether Microsoft will strip Java support from future Macintosh versions of Internet Explorer. Microsoft's strategy to expand its .NET offerings flies in the face of strenuous attempts by Apple to make the Mac the best Java machine around. Mac OS X and current versions of Mac Runtime for Java (MRJ) offer better Java support than ever before.