Java mobile platform to get widget apps

Sun officials discuss Java On Device Portal, JavaFX Mobile, and other technologies aimed at boosting apps for handhelds

Emphasizing the growing importance of mobile device applications, Sun Microsystems is readying technologies to better enable the mobile trend, including Java On Device Portal (ODP), for widget applications, and the JavaFX Mobile runtime, due next month as part of the JavaFX rich Internet application platform.

Sun officials detailed the company's plans Wednesday at the Java Mobile, Media and eMbedded Developers Days conference at Sun offices in Santa Clara, Calif.

[ Sun faces numerous competitors in the mobile development market, as laid out in "A developer's-eye view of smartphone platforms" | The company has also been stymied in its efforts to get Java on the iPhone. ]

"[ODP] has two primary functions," said Eric Klein, Sun vice president of Java marketing. "The first function is to make it easier for Java developers to quickly create these small widget applications using a consistent framework, and the second part is an on-device portal that lets that widget appear and be dynamically delivered."

Geared for feature phones, ODP is based on the Lightweight User Interface Toolkit (LWUIT), providing a way for Java developers to quickly build consistent mobile widgets. ODP is intended for delivering Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME) applications, is focused on rapid creation of Web services, and lowers testing costs, Sun officials said. An easy-to-use UI for handsets is featured, according to Sun.

Sun has finished the technology and is working to get it certified by mobile carriers. A couple of carriers are expected to announce support in a month or so, Klein said. ODP "is really about getting content faster to the phone," he said.

JavaFX Mobile, meanwhile, is due to be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Spain, beginning February 16. It will be available for carrier certification at that time and represents the runtime for deploying JavaFX applications on handheld devices. JavaFX is billed as Sun's platform for delivering rich expressive experiences on the Internet across multiple types of systems. It greatly reduces the need to code, Klein said.

JavaFX Mobile handsets will be demonstrated at the conference.

The mobile realm is becoming more critical, Klein stressed. "Where the innovation is going to occur is in the mobile space," he said.

Sun officials believe the ability to reach a broad base of mobile phones, not just a select few such as BlackBerry or the Apple iPhone, will be Java differentiator. ODP is a huge part of that story, Klein said.

Modularization of Java for the mobile and embedded community is eyed, said Jeet Kaul, Sun vice president of Java software. Sun executives also stressed a goal of getting developers to build applications faster and that application worth can be fleeting.

"Today, your Obama inauguration app isn't worth a lot of money. Yesterday, you had a good day," said Klein.

Also at the conference, Sun officials detailed several deliverables planned for 2009, including Java Specification Request 290, providing mobile browser APIs for Java ME applications and offering browser access to Web pages from mobile phones.

Java ME SDK 3.0, due in March, integrates capabilities for CLDC (Connected Limited Device Configuration), CDC (Connected Device Configuration), Blu-Ray disks, and Java all in a single SDK.

Milestone releases of phoneME open source projects also are planned for this year; phoneME is intended to expand usage of Java ME in the mobile handset market.

Milestone 4 of phoneMe Feature, for feature phones, is planned for March, offering virtual machine enhancements as well as improvements for the UI, multitasking, and security. Milestone 3 of PhoneMe Advanced, for more graphically rich phones, is due around September, with dual-stack CLDC/CDC support and capabilities for Java Virtual Machine Tool Interface (JVMTI) and Ahead of Time (AOT) compilation. 

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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