Sun launches updated mobile Java standard

The latest version of the standard set of technologies for Java-capable mobile devices has been finalized and is now available, Sun Microsystems Inc. today announced at the Telecom Asia 2002 conference.

Sun also announced the release of a reference implementation, test suite and beta version of a development tool kit.

The second version of the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP), which is a collection of standard application programming interfaces (API), includes support for secure HTTP, simple multimedia features such as audio and video, gaming, push applications and a range of new security functions.

MIDP 2.0 was developed by about 50 companies and individuals as part of Sun's Java Community Process and comes a little more than two years after MIDP 1.0 was first published. Like its predecessor, it seeks to define a basic set of APIs for inclusion in every mobile device that supports Java. The new features added to the standard reflect the evolution of cellular telephones in the past two years.

"The goal for MIDP has always been to define the core set of features that are common in mass-market handsets," said Eric Chu, a group marketing manager at Sun. "We have to be careful about balancing the features with what the market will accept."

The exclusion of an API for a specific feature, such as streaming video, from MIDP 2.0 doesn't mean it can't be supported on a Java handset. Carriers are allowed to develop their own custom APIs. But the idea is not to burden mass-market handsets with APIs for specialized or high-end features until such features become commonplace and the community can agree on a standard implementation.

Chu said one of the most important among the new features in MIDP 2.0 is the gaming support.

"The games API gives developers what they need to build games in a short length of time," he said. The support extends to sprites, which are independent graphics objects. "In the past, developers had to manage individual pixels, but now they can address [a graphic] as one chunk and move the element across the screen with a few simple commands. It will make games run faster and minimize the amount of work developers have to do to move elements on screen."

The push support will allow servers to deliver information directly to applets running on mobile terminals and remove the need for the applets to poll the servers periodically to see if new updates exist. In the area of multimedia, basic audio support for tones, tone sequences and WAV files has been added.

"We believe as we go forward in 2003, all data-capable handsets will have audio capabilities, but not all will have streaming capabilities. For those that do -- the premier handsets -- there is a common [optional] API. But you don't want to force the mid- and low-tier handsets to carry the burden of these capabilities," said Chu.

With the final specification of MIDP 2.0 now published, mobile device makers will next have to move to put it into products. Chu estimated that the first handsets supporting the standard will be available in the second quarter of next year.

Most major mobile device makers and carriers played a part in the development of MIDP 2.0. The hardware makers involved include Ericsson, Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Motorola Inc., NEC Corp., Nokia Corp., Philips Electronics NV, Research In Motion Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co., Siemens AG and Sharp Corp. Other large participants include France Telecom SA, J-Phone Co., NTT DoCoMo Inc., Orange SA, One2One PLC, PalmSource Inc., Symbian Ltd. and Vodafone Group PLC.

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