NEW YORK (AP) -- Widening an already nasty rift with competitors, Microsoft Corp. is giving software developers new tools intended to make it easier to use its version of the Java programming language.
Java, which has been touted as a way to develop programs that work on all types of computers, was created by Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems Inc.
Microsoft competitors fear that by promoting its own version of Java, the company may be further entrenching its Windows operating system as the dominant software platform computers use to run programs.
Microsoft released new tools today, including a technology dubbed Windows Foundation Classes, that make it easier for software developers to write Windows applications in Microsoft's version of Java. Such applications won't run on non- Windows systems.
The move was endorsed by Microsoft's one-time rival, Apple Computer Inc., expanding a relationship started last summer when Microsoft took a $150 million stake in Apple.
The announcement was made at the start of the Internet World trade show in Los Angeles.
Microsoft's move is the latest step in an industry quarrel over Java. The language was intended to enable developers to write software that runs on all computers, from PCs to workstations, freeing people from excessive reliance on any one type of operating system, such as Windows.
Sun Microsystems has sued Microsoft, alleging that the Redmond, Wash.-based company hijacked the language to create a version that works only on Windows computers and not rivals' products.
Sun maintains that Microsoft is abusing its dominance of operating system software for personal computers to cripple the drive toward a universal software language.
"To the extent (Microsoft encourages) people to start using Java for Windows, it dilutes the cross-platform message," said David Smith, an analyst with Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn.
As a result of Apple's collaboration with Microsoft, software developers using Microsoft's development tools will be able to write applications in Java for either Windows or Apple Macintosh computers.
Microsoft contends that Java applications work best when created for a specific operating system such as Windows.
Developing an application written in Java for a wide array of computers "comes with a significant set of tradeoffs," said Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft's group product manager for platform marketing.
Instead, Microsoft says it is taking advantage of other benefits of Java. Fitzgerald said Java enables developers to write applications more quickly and with fewer bugs.
IBM Corp. and Sun, meanwhile, are negotiating for IBM to use a version of Java for a universal operating system that will run the basic functions of computers hooked up to a central mainframe in a network.
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said the companies envision a joint venture in which IBM shares software code created by its developers. IBM also licenses the Java language from Sun. An IBM spokesman declined to comment.