Sun launches updated mobile Java standard

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Sun launches updated mobile Java standard

A group of hardware companies has finalised the latest version of the standard set of technologies for Java-capable mobile devices. The finished specification comprises a reference implementation, test suite and a beta version of a development toolkit.

MIDP 2.0 was developed by around 50 companies and individuals as part of Sun's Java Community Process and comes just over two years after MIDP 1.0 was first published.

The second version of the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP), which is a collection of standard application programming interfaces (APIs), includes support for secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), simple multimedia features such as audio and video, gaming, push applications and a range of security functions.

Like its predecessor, it seeks to define a basic set of APIs for inclusion in every mobile device that supports Java and the latest features added to the standard mirror the evolution of mobile phones in the past two years.

"The goal for MIDP has always been to define the core set of features that are common in mass market handsets," said Eric Chu, a group marketing manager with Sun. "We have to be careful about balancing the features with what the market will accept."

The exclusion of an API for a specific feature, such as streaming video, from MIDP 2.0 does not mean it cannot be supported on a Java handset. Carriers are allowed to develop their own custom APIs but the idea is not to burden mass- market handsets with APIs for specialised or high-end features until such features become commonplace and the community can agree on a standard implementation.

Among the new features in MIDP 2.0, Chu said one of the most important is the gaming support.

"The games API gives developers what they need to build games in a short time," he said. The new support extends to sprites, which are independent graphics objects. "In the past, developers had to manage individual pixels but now they can address [a graphic] as one chunk and move the element across the screen with a few simple commands. It will make games run faster and minimise the amount of work developers have to do to move elements on screen."

The push support will allow servers to deliver information directly to applets running on mobile terminals and remove the need for the applets to poll the servers periodically to see if new updates exist. In the area of multimedia, basic audio support for tones, tone sequences and WAV files has been added.

"We believe as we go forward in 2003, all data-capable handsets will have audio capabilities but not all will have streaming capabilities. For those that do, the premier handsets, there is a common [optional] API but you don't want to force the mid- and low-tier handsets to carry the burden of these capabilities," said Chu.

With the final specification of MIDP 2.0 now published, it will be up to mobile device makers to put it into products. Chu estimated that the first handsets to support the standard would be available in the second quarter of next year.

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