Java makes its way to Dreamcast, PS2 is next

Users of Sega's Dreamcast gaming console will now be able to surf Web sites and play games that use the popular Java programming language, because the latest version of Dreamcast's Internet browser comes with built-in Java support.

Java continues to gain momentum on a wide variety of computing devices from high-powered servers to cell phones. The flexible nature of the language allows it to run on many different operating systems and gives developers a chance to add more interactive features to Web sites and other types of software.

Planetweb Inc. currently makes the Internet browser for the Dreamcast console and released version 3.0 of that browser Tuesday with built-in Java support. Users will now be able to access the multimedia features on Web sites using Java and play games written in that language, according to Parker Lee, vice president of business development at Planetweb.

Users have not been able to download other browsers such as Netscape Communication's Navigator or Microsoft's Internet Explorer because users can only download game files and the size of the Dreamcast hard drive is limited.

The software can be purchased on for US$14.99 until the end of the month at which time the price will go up to around $25.99, Lee said.

While Sega has dropped its console business, the company has sold over 5 million Dreamcast units in the U.S., creating enough of a user base for Planetweb to push its latest product, Lee said. In addition, Planetweb will likely design similar browser software for Sony Corp.'s successful PlayStation 2 gaming console.

"We have some nice discussions going, and we are a customer and a partner of Sony," Lee said.

When asked if Planetweb would likely make a similar Java-enabled browser for Sony, Lee said, "I would feel safe in saying that. We are looking forward to working with that platform and expanding our relationship."

Planetweb made a browser for the PlayStation 2, which is available in Japan. That browser doesn't support Java currently. Sony has said it will support Java in its consoles by year end, according to a statement.

In addition to being able to access new Web sites and games, users can use a Javed-based instant messaging client and personalized portal software built into the upgraded browser.

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Ashlee Vance

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