WAP vs. J2ME: Which is best for mobile?

By Ana Orubeondo, InfoWorld |  Networking

But before we venture too far into what J2ME is and the benefits it provides, it might make sense to state up front what it is not, and that is a replacement for WAP. Those who follow this space will quickly agree that, instead of looking at it as a WAP competitor, J2ME should be looked at as a complementary technology used to further expand the usefulness of wireless access and applications.

As you mentioned, WAP is a browser technology that allows users to browse WAP-enabled Web sites. Unfortunately, although useful in what it does, it does have a few shortcomings, including security and the fact that it requires constant airtime for stand-alone or offline operations.

When coupled with J2ME, however, users will now be provided with a full-featured Java-based application environment from which to enhance their experience. What makes it especially appealing is the fact that implementation is as easy as having your users download the application via their standard WAP browser.

Furthermore, by employing this type of technology, users will no longer be restricted to the limited monochromatic interfaces seen on WAP devices today, but rather we will enjoy full-color, animated graphics and applications that are much easier to navigate. Once the Java application has been stored on the handset, it can then exchange data with back-end information systems using the existing WAP infrastructure.

With that said, users will also be happy to know that applications developed with J2ME are upwardly scalable to work with Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) and the venerable Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) with little rework required.

What does the future hold?

Ana: Companies in the mobile data business and end-users will all benefit from WAP.

The devices will cover a wide base of end-user needs, and phone manufactures will continue to improve and develop newer and more sophisticated devices that will continue to support and enhance services and the user's experience. Because WAP is supported by all major phone manufacturers, it is very likely to become very successful.

I believe that J2ME will also triumph, Tim, as phone-manufacturing market leaders such as Nokia, Motorola, and LG Telecom also support it. Java is also an established program, and J2ME will appeal to developers, which may lead to better wireless applications. Some individuals may not take J2ME seriously right away, however, because Java has been traditionally better-suited as a desktop-and server-based language and therefore appeals to mainstream developers more than it does to embedded-system builders.

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