JAVAONE - Sun exec sees focus shifting to clients

Providing a consistent way to run Java programs on PCs, cell phones and other client computers is the next hurdle in the evolution of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java technology, the head of Sun's Java and XML (Extensible Markup Language) software group said Monday.

With Java now an established technology for creating business-to-business and other server-side applications, developers need a standard way to extend those server programs and make them accessible from a growing universe of Java-enabled client devices, said Rich Green, vice president and general manager for Java and XML at Sun.

"We take the position of clients very seriously," Green told a crowded hall of developers on the first day of Sun's JavaOne conference. "The role of clients in driving the network architecture is paramount to the whole Java model."

To boot, Sun has submitted a proposal to the Java Community Process that defines a standard way for developers to extend Java-based Web services applications to phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other devices that use Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), he announced. Included in the specification will be APIs (application programming interfaces) and other technologies that provide a standard way for delivering Web services applications to portable devices. The Java Community Process is a multivendor group set up by Sun to consider new Java standards.

The proposal is backed by tools makers including Borland Software Corp., and Metrowerks Inc. as well as gadget makers Research in Motion Ltd., Siemens AG and Nokia Corp., according to Green. Sun hopes the specification request, number 172, will be ready for approval by mid-2003.

"What this technology is designed to do is extend the Web services standards -- the SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and XML protocols -- to Java handsets" and other client devices, he said.

Equally important is having a common Java runtime environment for desktop PCs -- something the Sun executive went to court last week to try to enforce. Green testified on behalf of nine of the states that have yet to settle their antitrust lawsuit with Microsoft Corp. and are pursuing stiff behavioral restrictions against the software maker.

In particular, Green told the court that Microsoft should be required to include a current Java Virtual Machine with Windows XP and other Microsoft products, which should ensure that those products can run Java programs. Microsoft's .Net software products are Java's main rival, and Microsoft recently stopped supporting the technology in its products. Many PC makers have made up for the omission by installing Java virtual machines (JVMs) on PCs before selling them.

"Call up Intel (PC makers), make sure they're including the latest version of Java with Windows XP," Green urged developers here.

He also announced two new JVMs for gadgets that he said should boost performance and graphics capabilities and help to conserve battery life. Developed under the code name Project Monty, the new JVMs from Sun make use of a compiler technology used in its HotSpot VM for servers, he said.

The announcements were in step with a central theme of the conference: encouraging developers to write Java applications for mobile devices. Some 15 handset vendors offer phones that run Java programs, and about 17 million Java phones were in use worldwide as of February this year, Green said.

"2002 is the year of wireless Java," declared Jouko Hayrynen, vice president of software for Nokia Corp., who joined Green on stage to announce a service that helps wireless application developers find customers for their software. The Nokia Tradepoint Broker Service is basically a Web site where developers can post and sell new J2ME applications. Nokia hopes the service will be used for both consumer and enterprise applications, Hayrynen said.

Also in the area of mobile development, vendors including Research in Motion Ltd., Sprint Corp., Oracle Corp. and Sun itself announced new or upgraded tools here Monday for writing mobile Java applications.

Green was joined on stage by Patricia Seultz, executive vice president and general manager of Sun's software systems group, and John Gage, chief researcher and director of the Sun Science Office. The trio highlighted what they characterized as growing momentum behind J2ME; J2SE (Java 2 Standard Edition), the version of Java for PCs; and J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), the version used on servers.

Green announced availability of the J2EE Application Verification Kit, which lets developers test Java applications to ensure they will run across application servers from various vendors. More information about the software is online at http://java.sun.com/j2ee/avk/.

Sun is also set to announce changes Tuesday to the Java Community Process that align it more closely with the open-source model of software development, he said, without offering specifics. The changes are part of an effort to attract more Java developers -- which total about 3 million today -- and widen the Java community as a whole, he said.

Seultz promised that this year's JavaOne conference would focus more on technology and less on marketing than in years past, with more sessions for developers and fewer speeches from industry bigwigs. "You're going to see fewer CEOs," she promised, drawing applause from the audience.

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