News from JavaOne, Day One

Sun Microsystems wants to see Java flank Microsoft on small computing devices, and it's willing to work with Intel, its primary microprocessor competitor, to make it happen.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

June 11, 2003

5 Min Read

Sun Microsystems wants to see Java flank Microsoft on small computing devices, and it's willing to work with Intel, its primary microprocessor competitor, to see it happen, Sun officials indicated yesterday at JavaOne in San Francisco.

Sun is striving to put Java on as many cell phones and other handheld devices as possible. "PC manufacturers ship 120 million PCs [running Windows] a year. We'll double that" in the number of cell phones that ship running Java this year, predicted Jonathan Schwartz, executive VP of the Software Group at Sun in his remarks opening the Java developer conference. "The PC makers should watch the handset market," he said.

The Nokia Group, Nextel Communications, Vodafone, Sony Ericsson, Siemens and other cell-phone manufacturers are bringing out phones capable of running Java applications and interactive Java user interfaces. As part of the opening session, Vodafone CEO Guy Laurence said cell-phone buyers who play games on their handsets are now the second-largest source of revenue for his company. The games are written in Java, and are a precursor to the many other uses of Java applications on the phones, he predicted.

"In the mobile world, the train is leaving the station and you're either on board or you're not," he said. Vodafone owns 45% of Verizon in the U.S.

Sun has agreed to disclose details of its specifications for wireless Java programming to Intel so that Intel can optimize its Xscale microprocessors to run Java applications. By giving Intel more information, Intel will be able to produce phone chips that require less battery power while running Java faster, said Juan Dewar, senior director of marketing for Sun Software's Consumer, Mobile Systems, and Solutions Group.

In allying with Intel, Sun is posing a direct challenge to competing phone development environments, including Microsoft's Windows SmartPhone 2002 and Qualcomm's BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), said Lee Epting, Nokia VP of developer operations.

Meanwhile, other mobile phone makers were adding fuel to the mobility engine.

Epting said her firm is releasing a software developers kit that makes it easier for Java developers to produce mobile Java applications. Four years ago, the Nokia high-end phone, the Series 60, was a strictly proprietary platform. By adopting Java 2 Micro Edition, the device is opened up to software developers who make money by producing new applications for it, she explained.

"I'm about touching the developer," said Epting, who recently moved her family from San Francisco to Helsinki, Finland, to push Nokia's independent developer program. Until a phone manufacturer has "talked to developers, you can't really feel their pain," and find ways to simplify the hardware environment for which they are working to produce apps, she said.

Nokia Developer's Suite for Java 2 Micro Edition, Version 2.0, will support the Mobile Information Device Profile 2.0 established by the Java Community Process, Sun's multivendor Java specification group. The MID profile was set last November, and Epting said it specifies a set of application programming interfaces for developers. If developers wish to add video to an application, the profile tells them how to do it, along with many other options, she said.

Borland will distribute Nokia's Developer Suite with its JBuilder integrated Java development environment, she added. The chief use of Java on cell phones to date is playing games. But the idea of mobile Java applications "has to be broadened to services from many sources," said Sanjay Sarathy, director, product marketing,

Another cell phone supplier, Nextel, provided an example. Ernie Cormier, VP of business solutions, said its i58- and i88-series phones have built-in geographical positioning systems that can pinpoint the user's location. Little use has been made of the capability, he noted, but the right Java application could provide many location-specific services, such as lists of restaurants or other neighborhood resources or merely directions in getting from one point to another.

To make developing Java phone applications less complicated, Sun and the phone producers have agreed to standardize verification tests that determine whether a given application is suitable for all Java phones. Each manufacturer up until now has supplied its own test suite. By coming up with a common set of tests, an independent developer will face a much lower hurdle in moving an application to market on multiple phone sets, Sun's Sarathy said.

"Fifty-three telecommunications carriers deploy Java services to 100 million subscribers," Sun's Schwartz boasted. The potential is for a billion subscribers using Java phones in less than years, he said.

In other developments:

Schwartz committed Sun to minimizing the differences that have grown up between the four distinct Java platforms: Java 2 Enterprise Edition for servers, Java 2 Standard Edition for small servers and desktops, Java 2 Micro Edition for portable devices, and Java cards for intelligent health-care, ID, or credit cards.

Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled an OpenView Internet Usage Manager tool for developers that functions as a plug-in to the Eclipse open-source developer's workbench. The tool will simplify the creation, editing, testing and debugging of software used on the Internet. Based on HP's OpenView network-management software, the tool is designed to enable the creation of components that collect network, system, and service usage data for cost allocation and billing. They also can be geared to follow business rules on how to support changing business conditions, said Mike Rank, HP's developer-resource organization director.

Sun established Java.net, a comprehensive software developer portal that combines Java information previously scattered across a variety of Sun sites. The site will have a specific section devoted to developing mobile Java, said Mike Bellissimo, senior director of Sun Software developer marketing. Sun has named O'Reilly & Associates as the news editor for the site. Developers may join Java development projects on the site through the use of collaborative software from CollabNet Inc.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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