Sun brews fresh Java for mobile devices

New tools will boost developers' ability to create cross-platform applications for sophisticated mobile devices. Enterprise tools are also on the way
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Sun is giving its Java programming environment a stronger kick, with improvements to its capabilities for both enterprise-grade computers and a myriad of sub-PC devices.

On Tuesday, ahead of its JavaOne devloper conference in Japan this week, Sun announced approval of a new version of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) version 1.4, which includes a host of application programming interfaces (APIs) for Web services. On the other end of the scale, Sun announced approval of the Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) Personal Profile specification, aimed at embedded devices such as set-top boxes, automobile electronics, higher-end handheld computers and game consoles.

Java is Sun's programming environment for creating applications that can be written once to run on a variety of platforms, including different computer operating systems and a wide range of mobile devices.

In recent years, Sun has aimed Java's cross-platform capabilities increasingly at the proliferation of mobile, network-connected devices such as mobile phones, handhelds and set-top boxes, with its Java MIDP (Mobile Information Device Profile) now built into many basic mobile phones. J2ME Personal Profile replaces Sun's PersonalJava and aims at giving a high-performance experience comparable to that of a PC.

J2ME Personal Profile, known as JSR 62, made its way through an approval regime called the Java Community Process, members of which include Ericsson, IBM, Philips, Research in Motion and Texas Instruments, all vital players in the mobile device industry.

The new specification will be made available to developers at JavaOne. Sun has released the reference implementation of Personal Profile, and developers creating for the Linux operating system on Intel's StrongARM processors will soon get an optimised version based on the Connected Device Configuration, Hotspot Implementation (known as CDC HI).

This includes an optimised compiler to provide better Java performance on mobile devices. Sharp's Zaurus SL-5500 PDA is the best-known example of Linux running on StrongARM.

Sun is pitching Personal Profile as a cross-platform option for full-fledged applications. "Developers can now completely realise client device potential by building Java applications and applets that deliver a significant increase in computational performance, a small footprint and quicker application start-up," said Juan Dewar, director of Strategic Solutions and Devices at Sun, in a statement.

As Personal Profile is based on the Connected Device Configuration, it includes technologies not found in some lower-end Java implementations, such as on-board bytecode verification, a Java Native Interface and an Abstract Windowing Toolkit, Sun said.

The J2ME Personal Profile specification is available on Sun's Java Web site, while the reference implementation and technology compatibility kit are available through Sun's engineer programme.

J2EE 1.4, for its part, supports Web services features such as UDDI and ebXML registries and repositories, SOAP, XML processing and schemas and the Web Services Description Language (WSDL), Sun said.

The enterprise specification is designed to make it easy for developers to create Web services for deployment on multiple platforms. In this respect its highest-profile competitor is Microsoft's wide-ranging .Net technology, which includes a Java-rivalling programming language, C#.

Microsoft's .Net Compact Framework competes with Java on mobile devices. A second test version of Compact Framework was released earlier this month.

While many mobile phone manufacturers have adopted MIDP and other Java platforms, developers complain that the applications must be altered so much for each device that the promise of "write once, run anywhere" is not being realised.

What standards will drive the next wave of Web-based services, and how will they interact? Check out the latest developments on .Net, Java, Liberty Alliance, Passport and other technologies at ZDNet UK's Web Services News Section, including analysis, case studies and management issues.

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