Proponents of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java computing language are intensifying their efforts to expand its acceptance and use in corporate applications.

At the second annual JavaOne conference here, International Business Machines Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp. affirmed their support for Java, noting it is flexible enough to run everything from smart card systems to enterprisewide data bases.

The two companies, with Sun, plan to develop Java Foundation Classes, a set of tools for defining the way Java programs look and act.

Meanwhile, Sun officials encouraged the 9,000 programmers in attendance to write applications in "100% pure Java" and announced the selection of Utah-based Key Labs Inc. to certify programs that comply to the language's standards.

Though Netscape, perhaps the best-known maker of Internet browsers, has been supportive of Java since the language became available to the general public in 1995, the addition of IBM as a public booster is likely to accelerate the development of Java programs for banking and financial services.

"The industry is closing ranks behind Java," said Alan Baratz, president of Sun subsidiary JavaSoft. The main reason for this, according to Sun officials: Java programs can run on a wide variety of computers, which makes it an ideal language for the Internet age.

"Just as cars can run on gasoline from any gas station, Java is the universal fuel for computing," Mr. Baratz said.

But not everyone is as convinced of Java's universality.

Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates, speaking at a concurrent conference, likened the pursuit of a perfect computer language to a grail quest, and he characterized Java as simply one language among many that will be useful in modern programming.

Microsoft continues to license Java from Sun, while simultaneously promoting its own competing language, Active-X.

Java's roots date to a Sun program in the early 1990s for network consumer electronic devices, such as televisions and video cassette recorders.

The language's popularity spread as it began to be used in World Wide Web applications.

At the conference, WebTV announced it is licensing Java, joining a growing list of companies using it.

Current users include Visa International, First Union Corp., J.P. Morgan & Co., Novell, Apple Computer, and Lucent Technologies Inc.

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