Nokia joins Eclipse in mobile tools move

Open source effort ramps up for development framework

Application development for handheld devices will become a key focus of the Eclipse Foundation for open source tooling. Nokia will announce on Monday that it has joined Eclipse and is proposing a project to build a framework for mobile Java developer tools.

The mobile Java tools project will include tooling support for the J2ME specification. It will feature a mobile tools offering for building mobile Java applications and commercial tools for Java.

Nokia will participate as an Eclipse Strategic Developer and board member. The vendor intends to donate components of its existing technology and build software to introduce tools for the creation of MIDP- (mobile information device profile) and CDC-based (connected device configuration) mobile Java applications.

Both open source and commercial tools are expected to be derived from the venture.

"The overwhelming majority of applications that have been built on J2ME are games, but what we've noticed in the past year-and-a-half is a growing number of enterprise applications," with cell phones acting as front-end clients to enterprise applications such as sales-force automation systems, said D'Arcy Salzmann, product and partnership manager at Nokia.

Initial releases from the project are anticipated either late this year or early in 2006.

The relationship between Nokia and Eclipse is symbiotic.

"Nokia sells handsets, so the more applications that are available on mobile telephones, the more handsets that we sell," Salzmann said.

Eclipse sees Nokia's participation as extending the organization's reach into the mobile space.

"More and more enterprise IT [shops] are looking for ways and technologies to enable them for mobile use, and having these tools at Eclipse will really help developers achieve that goal," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director at Eclipse.

Industry analyst Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates, concurred.

"What it means is Eclipse now gets to expand its footprint beyond the traditional computing environment, and it gets to reach out to the mobile device," Hurwitz said. Pervasive computing is no longer ending at the enterprise desktop.

While acknowledging that free open source offerings can impact sales of traditional commercial tools environments, basing technologies on Eclipse helps make customers more comfortable with less-established players, Hurwitz said.

"Customers are very happy when the vendors they deal with adopt Eclipse because it reduces training costs," Hurwitz said. It also reduces the risks if a tool ceases to exist.

Eclipse provides a common framework for tooling, she added. And Microsoft, as the alternative to Eclipse, is watching developments closely, with the industry bifurcating into the Eclipse and Windows camps.

Nokia had announced support for the Eclipse platform in 2004 in the Nokia Developer's Suite for J2ME and the Nokia Mobile Server Services SDK. The company also contributed resources to the Embedded Rich Client Platform project at Eclipse.

Eight full-time engineers from Nokia will be working on Eclipse projects.