Micro Java database targets handhelds

PointBase has released a new version of its main all-Java relational database, along with a small version aimed at handheld devices running the Java2 Micro Edition software.

The new products are intended to give application developers a full set of data management capabilities across multiple operating systems on all kinds of devices. This means that PointBase has had to bolster the performance of its server product, and extend data management to such devices as PDAs and cell phones. On these small devices, a local database is essential for letting users actually run applications, using the device's computing power when it's disconnected from the network.

The tiny PointBase Micro database, introduced this week at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco, uses about 45K of RAM on handhelds that are, increasingly, being given ever larger memory capacity and processing power. These advances, in turn, mean users now can run sophisticated local applications and enter, store and manipulate data. The vendor is targeting PointBase Micro at cell phone makers and other small device vendors, and especially an array of software developers and resellers that will now be able to write and install Java programs on wireless phones.

By contrast, phones that use the Wireless Application Protocol browser require a continuous connection to servers that host WAP content. Once the connection is lost, the WAP phone can only be used for voice - or as a paperweight.

"People have tried WAP, but increasingly they seem to want to do offline processing of some kind and then synchronize [data] later with the server," says Bruce Scott, founder and chairman of PointBase in Mountain View, Calif.

PointBase Micro can run on any client that uses the J2ME or Java2 Standard Edition APIs, libraries and virtual machines. Pricing is per client, with volume discounts available. The single unit price for the J2ME edition is US$99, and the J2SE edition costs $199.

On the other end of the data connection is PointBase Server, a full SQL relational database. A range of computers running the server product can be interconnected to share and update data using the PointBase UniSync software.

Company executives say PointBase Server 4.0 offers comparable performance to such widely used databases as Microsoft SQL Server. The performance improvement is the result of several trends: improvements in Java's overall performance, faster just-in-time Java compilers and PointBase's own engineering work.

One engineering change is more efficient algorithms in the database's object model. To process a transaction, for example, the database creates and destroys a series of objects, but each of these actions pays a performance price. The new algorithms significantly cut the number of objects that have to be created.

Another change breaks down the database into a set of modules. Developers can select just the modules they need for a specific Java application, minimizing the size of the application and its processing load.

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