JavaOne: Mobile device makers temptJava developers

Sun Microsystems is launching a major offensive to get Java onto handheld devices and phones.

Sun Microsystems is launching a major offensive to get Java onto handheld devices and phones.

At its JavaOne Developer Conference in San Francisco, Sun and a number of partners building hardware and software based on Java announced a range of new projects and products.

The focus is on Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), a standard set of blueprints that hardware and software makers can use when designing products. By the end of the year, Sun said it expects that about 50 million devices will be shipped with Java built in. That number is expected to balloon to about 400 million in the next two years, the company said.

One newcomer to the effort is Research In Motion. It announced an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that allows developers to build applications in Java to run on its wireless BlackBerry device. BlackBerry applications traditionally have been written in C++.

Meanwhile, Sprint unveiled the latest version of its Wireless Toolkit, which gives developers an environment for building applications tailored to run on its phones. The company has previously offered developer tools and emulators to build Java applications for Sprint phones.

Unlike BlackBerry, the applications being built for mobile phones typically are designed for consumers. To support this type of development, some added features in Sprint's toolkit will benefit, for example, video game developers building small applications for mobile phones. They include support for sound as well as the vibrating function on a handset.

In addition to a Sprint-branded wireless toolkit, partners have adopted Sprint's Java APIs in their respective wireless toolkits. They include Sun's Forte For Java IDE, as well as Borland's JBuilder and CodeWarrior by Motorola subsidiary Metrowerks.

Sprint plans to begin offering consumers access to Java applications from their phones when it rolls out Java-enabled phones and a 3G network by the end of the year, a company representative said.

Nokia already has a developer toolkit on the market and one Java-enabled handset available to consumers. The company is showing eight more handsets at JavaOne that it plans to release this year.

Nokia also launched here an online "broker service" for the building and selling of Java applications that can run on its handsets. Designed for mobile operators, the site would ease the process of bringing new applications to mobile phones. The broker service is an expansion of Nokia's Tradepoint Web site, which is used to promote applications designed for Nokia handsets.

Motorola announced a Bluetooth Java specification developed by the Java Community Process that will allow Java applications to be delivered over Bluetooth, a local wireless network technology. For example, it would allow the applications to be transmitted from a cell phone to a handheld computer.

It also announced it is participating in the development of Mobile Information Device Platform (MIDP), the next version of the technology profile for Java-based mobile phones. MIDP, which also is being jointly developed by the Java Community Process, will add new support for sound, multimedia, security and networking.

Finally, Sun itself will discuss here this week the next version of its Forte for Java developer tools, which will be available for the first time in a wireless edition.

Although Java tools are being widely embraced, and real applications are being delivered to Java-powered devices in various parts of the world, including Japan, there still is progress to be made in the development of the Java specifications, according to one developer here.

Chase McMichael, chief executive officer of application vendor UnBound Technologies, had one burning question: "When will developers actually be able to go public with this stuff?" he asked.

Sun is not alone in its quest to provide the software and architecture for delivering applications to small devices. Its most notable opponent, Microsoft, is embarking on a similar effort with its .net initiative. The software maker plans to release a compact version of its .net Framework, which will form the technical foundation for how small devices run Web-based services and other applications based on Microsoft's software.

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