Sun And Texas Instruments Ink Licensing Deal

Texas Instruments will integrate Sun's Java technology into its chipsets for mobile phones.
Texas Instruments Inc. says it will integrate Sun Microsystems' Java technology into its chipsets for cellular phones, hoping to make it easier for developers to build software for the platform.

Under the deal announced Thursday, TI has licensed Sun's Connected Limited Device Configuration HotSpot Implementation for integration into the company's TCS chipsets and wireless OMAP processors. Sun's CLDC HI, part of the Java 2 Micro Edition set of standards and technologies, is a Java virtual machine and set of class libraries for running applications.

In addition, Sun and TI will collaborate on optimizing Sun's Mobile Information Device Profile 2.0 on the TI platform. MIDP is the application environment for which developers write their applications.

MIDP includes a variety of programming interfaces that developers can tap for a variety of services, including network security, storage and downloading, installing and running applications from a server. The technology built for the TI platform will be tested and validated against Sun's Content Delivery Server, a carrier-grade product for uploading Java applications to handsets.

Sun acquired CDS when it bought privately held Pixo Inc. in July.

The Sun-TI deal is expected to ease the difficulty of building Java applications for cellular phones, an area where the platform has gained some market strength. The Sun technology is particularly geared toward applications that will run on evolving high-speed networks, called 2.5G and 3G.

"One of the things that Sun acknowledges about Java is they haven't done as good a job of simplifying development (on the platform), making it as easy as they could have," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. "When comparing Java with Windows, Windows is usually easier, and the technology is better integrated. This is an indication that Sun is putting some effort into simplifying Java development."

Market researcher Yankee Group says Java and Qualcomm Inc.'s Brew are the leading wireless-application development platforms for cellular phones and handheld devices. The market, however, is far too young to have a clear winner.

To date, most Internet-based applications available for handsets are for games and other lightweight uses such as changing the ring tone on a cellular phone to play Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

However, Brew does enable more useful applications, such as location-based services for finding an address. Java applications delivering weather forecasts and other advanced services are also available.

A major threat to both platforms is Microsoft, which made a big push in the market this year with its .Net Compact Framework. The toolset, included in Visual Studio .Net 2003, is designed to simplify development on Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system.

While early tools were clumsy, Microsoft's latest technology is considerably better, Yankee Group analyst John Jackson said. In addition, it has several million loyal developers that will start tapping code as soon as they see an opportunity to make money.

What's unclear for Sun is whether it can offset its dramatic drop in hardware sales with revenue from its software portfolio, in general. High-end computer systems continue to make up a large portion of Sun's sales.

"With Sun's software efforts, in general, and Java in particular, they really haven't demonstrated to date that they can make significant amounts of money off of a pure software play," Haff said.

For the fiscal first quarter ended Sept. 28, Sun reported a net loss of $286 million, compared with a net loss of $111 million for the same period a year ago. Revenue for the period dropped 7.7% to $2.54 billion from $2.75 billion a year ago. It was the 10th consecutive quarter in which Sun reported lower year-over-year revenue.