Latest Java ME Update Adds ARM-based Chip Optimization

Oracle today announced the latest update of the Java Platform Micro Edition (Java ME), which is available for download now, is specifically optimized for some popular ARM-based embedded chip architectures, including the Raspberry Pi and the Keil STM32 F200 Evaluation Board for the ARM Cortex-M processor.

Java ME (which Oracle is calling "Java ME Embedded") is the version of Java aimed at software development in tight, low-power environments without screens or interfaces, such as micro-controllers. It's fast becoming a big part of the evolving "Internet of Things" conversation, which revolves in large part around machine-to-machine (M2) coding, said Chris Rommel, analyst at the VDC Research Group, which specializes in the embedded systems market.

"The number of devices out there that are connected is growing," Rommel said. "I think that's something everyone understands. But what that connectivity really means is very different from how that translates to end-system value. On one end you have an Ethernet-connected factory, but on the other end you have active system monitoring and even the tie-in to the company's business model. When we ask embedded engineers how much these changes are impacting their development, 70-75 percent say that their organizations have identified [embedded systems development] as important and are investigating it."

Around a million developers are writing code for embedded devices, Rommel said, not including third-party devs getting into the embedded systems space. Rommel couldn't cite the specific number using Java ME today, but he did offer a telling statistic: his company's surveys show that Java ME is now the third-most frequently-used language for embedded development (around 20 percent), rivaling C/C++, which are favorites historically in this area.

"What we've seen in the past few years is the injection of intelligence and the additional processing and memory resources into a lot of formerly dumb devices," Rommel said. "What they're looking to do on those end devices, but also simply what they can do on them, has really changed how organizations are thinking about software development."

Java ME 3.3 supports embedded chip architectures from ARMv5 through ARMv7, as well as Gemalto's Cinterion M2M Modules. It also now supports Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit), along with Windows XP (32-bit). It also allows for the emulation of external peripherals and connectivity, and in-field and remote administration and debugging.

Significantly, this release provides Java ME SDK plug-ins for the NetBeans Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and Eclipse. , enabling more application development environments for Java ME developers. This support is going to make it easier for traditional enterprise developers to do something meaningful for embedded devices, Rommel said. VDC's own research has found increasing use of NetBeans in the traditional embedded community, he added.

"Go back a few years and most software developers in this space were using traditional embedded-focused IDEs (Greenhills, WindRiver, etc.)," he said, "but more and more of those developers have transitioned to Eclipse-based IDEs. Now NetBeans is floating up; I think that speaks to a growing comfort in the embedded developer community with Java and a willingness to use it."

The company also unveiled its new Oracle Java Platform Integrator program, which aims to help its partners to customize Java ME products (Java SE Embedded, Java ME Embedded, and Java Embedded Client) for different device types and market segments. The embedded marketplace has long been highly fragmented, a heterogeneous ecosystem of different boards and form factors, all targeting different industry applications. Consequently, there's some support in the community for Oracle's vision of Java as a unifying technology among these device classes and its potential for establishing relationships and additional channels to market.

"If they can pull it off, it's going to be a big factor in the success of Java ME going forward," Rommel said.

Oracle announced the release today at its JavaOne Shanghai 2013 developer conference. The company is providing the Java ME SDK at no cost for internal development and testing. Java ME 3.3 and the SDK are available now for download now. More information on the Java Platform Integrator program is available on the OTN Web site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].