Sun looks to simplify J2ME development

New programs will help developers create, test, market their apps

Sun Microsystems on Tuesday introduced new developer programs aimed at simplifying Java development for applications that run on mobile phones.

The first program will create a standard way of testing and certifying "Java Verified" applications that run on devices made by Nokia, Siemens, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, and Motorola.

Sun also launched a Sun Developer Network Mobility Program designed to help Java developers write J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) applications and then market them to consumers and businesses. Consumers will be able to browse software offerings on Sun's Java.com Web site.

Speaking at the company's JavaOne developer conference in San Francisco, Sun executives stressed the need to simplify the Java platform, which today runs on everything from smart cards to supercomputers.

"What we've got to get back to is defining one platform: a common platform," said Sun Executive Vice President of Software Jonathan Schwartz. "All of these technologies need to come together in a common architecture," he said. "One of the big themes you're going to hear from us this week is how we've got to come together to continue propelling one Java," he added.

The disunity of the Java platform is perhaps most evident in the J2ME space, where the sheer number of devices -- more than 94 million, according to Sun -- means that the software is now running on many different types of machines. "With the openness of Java there are choices, and with choices come confusion," said Eric Chu, Sun's director of J2ME business and marketing.

Tuesday's announcements eventually will make things less confusing for Java developers by helping to ensure their applications will run on a variety of hardware platforms, Sun said.

"In the J2ME space, there is a problem," said Mahad Ayalur, marketing manager at Motorola. "Applications written for one MIDP 2.0 device will not necessarily run on another MIDP 2.0 device," he said, referring to Sun's Mobile Information Device Profile for cell phones and personal digital assistants.

Right now, developers who want to certify their applications to run on number of cell phones must certify them independently with each cell phone vendor, Ayalur said.

Sun's plan to launch its "Java Verified" program, which is based on a memorandum of understanding and still subject to further negotiation, will address this by providing a single place where Java developers can go to get their applications certified to run on Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson devices.

Sun's Developer Network Mobility Program, also announced Tuesday, will help those same developers create and test their applications. Sun also will give them a marketing forum on its Java.com Web site, which will take on more of a consumer focus under the new program.

Finally, Sun announced a program called the Business Mobility Initiative that is designed to promote J2ME applications in the manufacturing, financial services and telecommunications industries.

"The intent of this program is to make it less costly and much less complex for enterprises to adopt mobile solutions," said Sun Enterprise Solutions Group manager Paxton Cooper.

He said Sun will work with partners such as Aether Systems and Lucent Technologies to develop mobile applications and services based on Java to offer to enterprises. The first of these should be announced within the next three to four months, he said.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.