Sun to Push Wireless Java

Sun Microsystems is hoping to kick off the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco with a heavy emphasis on two particular fields of Java-based software development: wireless platforms and Web services. But in part due to the fact that the Web services side of the equation has been highly fragmented by industry competitors, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based innovator of the programming language is unmistakably putting more stock into the wireless community.

To that end, Sun reportedly plans to launch a major consumer marketing campaign to highlight “Java Powered” capabilities of handheld devices. Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Sun’s Software Group, and John Fowler, Sun’s chief technology officer, are expected to announce the new campaign when they kick off the JavaOne conference on Tuesday. With pop star Christina Aguilera as the spokesperson, Sun and its Java partners are expected to spend more than $500 million on “Java Powered” advertising, according to published reports.

As previously reported by internetnews.com, the ultimate goal is to boost the army of Java software developers to over 10 million from the current 3 million level. To do that, Sun realizes it has to come up with new ways to reach new audiences, according to Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, Sun’s director of strategic marketing.

“I don’t think there is an issue of ‘late to market’ at all, but we realize the next level to double the number of developers there has to be new audiences that we provide support for,” Van Den Hoogen said during a recent interview.

In addition, Sun is expected to simplify its development tools for people who write applications with Java. The new toolset dubbed “Project Rave,” which will be available later this year, is expected to simplify Web services in areas like database connectivity and enterprise application integration.

But while the Web services side of software development may yet prove to be a boon, the proliferation of Java as an enterprise standard has been slowed by the likes of Oracle, BEA Systems and others that are trying to usurp Sun’s authority in controlling the Java specification.

In fact, Sun had to streamline the Java Community Process (JCP) a few weeks ago to fend off criticism that Java as a standard was becoming more fragmented partly due to a very complicated and confusing approval process for specs.

Sun’s latest marketing endeavor also comes at a time of renewed excitement in the wireless development community. Recognizing the increasing role that online gaming has with wireless system operators, Sun last week announced the appointment of a chief gaming officer to oversee a newly established Sun Game Technologies Group. In fact, Sun is hosting a Video Game Summit at JavaOne, a three-day event offering case studies, developer insight, game demos and techniques highlighting the use of Java technology in modern game development.

In addition, Palm’s acquisition of Handspring, also announced last week, has helped give further clarity to the once-opaque outlook facing handheld computing. Indeed, Palm plans to add Java capabilities to its entire Tungsten product line through IBM’s Websphere Micro Environment and IBM officials believe the Handspring acquisition only gives them more opportunities to work together.

To be sure, wireless software developers don’t face the same Java compatibility hurdles as those of enterprise Web services developers. Thanks to standards like Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) 2.0, which first debuted in December 2002, software engineers no longer need to worry about disjointed APIs coming down the pike. Ironically, MIDP 2.0 was developed and implemented by the same JCP.

That has led industry leaders like Nokia to introduce a new version of its Nokia Developer’s Suite for Java 2 Micro Edition, which offers full support of MIDP 2.0. The suite is available in the Windows and Linux environments and can be downloaded for free on the company’s site. Nokia’s series 60 platform also now supports Java MIDP 2.0.

— Michael Singer contributed to this article.

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