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Sun Outlines Java Mobile Strategy

Sun Microsystems kicked off its recently re-christened Java Mobile, Media, and Embedded Developer Days conference last week with unusually short keynotes from Jeet Kaul, vice president of Sun's Client Software Group, and Eric Klein, vice president of Sun's Java Marketing group. The two Sun execs offered a 10,000-foot view of Sun's mobile strategy.

"The mobile space where the innovation is going to occur in this industry," Klein said.

At the center of Sun's mobile strategy is JavaFX, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems company's platform for rich internet application (RIA) development. Sun bills JavaFX as a platform for building RIAs with "immersive media and content across all the screens of your life." The goal here is to provide a single development technology for a new generation of applications designed to run on PCs, mobile phones, TVs and any other consumer device with a screen, Klein said.

There was a big emphasis on mobile media at this year's event, explained Roger Brinkley, Sun' senior staff engineer and Java Mobile and Embedded community leader. "We even changed the name of the conference this year to include ‘media,'" Brinkley said. "The change reflects our recent focus on TV and this broader direction."

JavaFX 1.0 was released in December, and JavaFX Mobile is set to launch next spring at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Spain. The December release included a desktop runtime and an early-access version of a mobile emulator. But Sun previewed JavaFX Mobile back in mid-2007.

"It's fair to say that JavaFX has lagged a bit on the mobile side," Brinkley said. "JavaFX is a big piece of Sun's mobile strategy, and ideally we want it to run on multiple platforms."

Nearly as important as JavaFX Mobile to Sun's strategy, Klein said, is the Java On Device Portal (ODP), which is a lightweight environment designed to run and display widgets on Java-enabled mobile phones. The primary purpose of the ODP, Klein told his audience, is to make it easier for Java developers to create these small hunks of Java ME code (the widgets) quickly using a consistent framework. But the ODP environment is also designed to provide an on-device portal that allows widget to "appear and be dynamically delivered," he said.

Sun expects the demand for RIA's in the mobile market is to grow "massively" in '09, said Param Singh, Sun's senior director of Java marketing. The key to success in this burgeoning market, Singh said, is to enable the development of RIA across multiple environments.

"Sun will be the only company providing this kind of cross-screen capability," Singh said. "Java's original vision had both a client- and server-side piece to it, with Java dominant in the enterprise," Singh said. "The client-side piece is being delivered with JavaFX. You will for the first time be able to create these RIA-like applications that were limited to the browser and bring them onto mobile devices."

Held at Sun's Santa Clara Campus Auditorium, the two-day event (known at the show as M3DD) drew slightly less than last year's 220 attendees, Brinkley said. But these are good numbers for a show that is focused like a laser on developers, Brinkley said, especially when combined with equal numbers of virtual attendees expected to view the presentations on the Web. "Our conference is about giving developers a high level of technical conference," he said. "I think of the Mobile World Congress as a suit-and-tie conference; this is a jeans-and-T-shirts conference."

Piggy-backing on this year's M3DD is a half-day event devoted to Sun's Java ME-based light-weight UI toolkit (LWUIT) for mobile UI development. LWUIT is designed to make it easy for developers to get their applications to run consistently across Java ME-enabled devices -- primarily cell phones. Sun's uses the adjectives "compelling and consistent" to describe the toolkit's capabilities and the impact of the visual components LWUIT is designed to support -- advanced features like style and "theming," animated transition effects, and integration with 3-D graphics and SVG.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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