Hot skills: Java FX Mobile offers opportunities

JavaFX Mobile promises to ease app development

What is it?

JavaFX Mobile is a software platform for advanced mobile devices. It is designed to allow developers to create sophisticated applications and network-based services. The system is built around open and standards-based technologies.

The Java programming language was developed by Sun Microsystems. At Sun's last count in May, there were about 1.5 billion Java-enabled phones in circulation. But, so far, Java on mobile devices has been used mostly for niche applications, such as games.

"The limited success of Java on the client side contrasts sharply with its long-standing dominance in enterprise server platforms and applications," said Gartner. The analyst firm attributed this limited uptake to "a lack of high-productivity developer tools, disruptive changes in user interface libraries, and the lack of control in being able to adapt the technology foundation to meet changing requirements".

JavaFX Mobile aims to address these issues. Sun plans to license JavaFX Mobile to phone manufacturers, and it predicts a potential market of 5.5 billion Java-powered mobile devices.

For Java developers, Sun offers the Mobile Services Architecture (MSA) for consumer devices, and the forthcoming MSA Advanced for enterprise applications.

Where did it originate?

JavaFX Mobile was developed by SavaJe Technologies. It was purchased by Sun Microsystems in April 2007.

MSA was developed by Sun and 13 other companies, including telecoms operators, original equipment manufacturers and software suppliers, through the Java Community Process.

What's it for?

JavaFX Mobile standardises the development environment by providing a Java middleware and application stack. This should enable developers to concentrate on applications rather than the particularities of the underlying technology. JavaFX Mobile supports Java ME applications and other standard Java application programming interfaces (APIs).

MSA is intended to provide application developers with greater handset platform functionality and reduce implementation variation through standard APIs. It is aimed at relatively static, pre-loaded environments.

MSA Advanced is intended to be "dynamic", with APIs available for download and support for access to enterprise applications via middleware such as BEA Weblogic and IBM Websphere.

What makes it special?

For the first time, developers should be able to "write once, run anywhere" for Java-enabled phones and mobile devices.

How difficult is it to master?

JavaFX Script is intended to be easier to code than Java, and Sun promises visual development tools to enable web applications to be built without coding.

What's coming up?

Hardware manufacturers are expected to ship JavaFX Mobile handsets in the first half of 2008. MSA-compliant handsets should be available in January.

Rates of pay

Salaries for Java developers typically start at £30,000.

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