Mobile Java devices point to 3G future

By Ashlee Vance, IDG News Service |  Development

If real-world demonstrations are any indication, multifunction 3G (third-generation) wireless devices may not be such a pipe dream after all.

Although Sun Microsystems Inc. has used the JavaOne show here to demonstrate Java-enabled wireless devices running Java-based applications, the company also has offered a glimpse of opportunities facing developers and manufacturers targeting wireless technologies.

According to Sun executives, that future includes tighter integration between Java applications built around the J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), micro semiconductor technology, and J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) server applications.

In particular, executives report that wireless provisioning of a common model for deploying content into J2ME wireless devices from J2EE servers is currently the subject of a Java Specification Request (JSR) being considered by the Java committee, comprised of about 400 companies. The JSR is expected to be approved within 12 months.

According to Glen Martin, Sun's senior product manager of J2EE specifications, to goal is to easily push applications or content residing on a server to any wireless device, regardless of platform.

As a result, Java offers the ability integrate technologies from the server to the wireless device, Martin said. In addition, Web services promises developers free, open standards in that environment. "Web services provides a standard way for organizations to request their services," he said.

Since the first Java-enabled phones started selling earlier this year, cell phone makers have already combined to ship 3 million of the Java products. By the end of this year, that figure could surge to more than 20 million, according to Curtis Sasaki, Sun's director of technology advocacy.

"From last year to this year, I think you have seen a maturity in the reality of J2ME in play here," Sasaki said. "We aren't just talking about things that will come, but things that are here today."

However, some users complain that Java's overall performance suffers due to its roots as an object-oriented language.

"I think for where people are going with Java right now, speed is one of the biggest issues," said Jonathan Newbrough, a Java user and director of education at Copernicus Computer Services. "But you have to make that sacrifice with any object-oriented language."

Sun tried to deal with this problem some time ago by splitting Java into different editions and making J2ME small enough to fit inside handheld devices.

"We didn't try to bring the PC down into the phone," Sasaki said. And so it is here that Sasaki claims more market opportunities exist over the next year.

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