Web services, J2EE to lead charge at JavaOne

At its JavaOne conference that kicks off here next week, Sun Microsystems is expected to talk more about the role it hopes to play in the emerging market for building Web services and detail advancements related to its Java software for businesses.

In the past year, Sun has seen use of its "write once, run anywhere" platform extend beyond PCs and servers to include cell phones and other gadgets. At its five-day conference in San Francisco's Moscone center, the company is expected to describe how developers can make use of Java to write applications that can be delivered to a variety of devices in the nascent Web services model.

In less than a year, the number of third-party products that passed Sun's J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) test suite has risen from one to 18, suggesting ongoing support for Java among corporate software vendors. Sun is expected to highlight continued momentum behind the technology next week by releasing version 2.0 of the J2EE EJB (Enterprise Java Beans) specification, according to Mark Richards, president of the New England Java User Group and senior architect at Apex Consulting Group Inc.

J2EE is a version of Java for servers that includes software components for building e-commerce applications and other back-end programs. EJBs define standards for how certain server applications should be written and are intended to make it faster for developers to write those applications.

"Within the J2EE circles, I was hoping to get a lot of news about the upcoming EJB 2.0 spec," Richards said, speaking about what he hopes to see at the show. "I don't think the coding differences between the EJB 1.0 spec and the 1.1 spec were fully communicated to the user community."

Announcements are also expected to be made by various third-party vendors related to J2EE, including tools for developers that can be used for building Web services.

In addition, a new Java specification for use by service providers and carriers will also be announced next week, said David Harrah, a Sun spokesman. Service providers and telecoms equipment providers will be on hand to highlight some J2EE applications for simplifying tasks such as billing and auditing, he said.

Some analysts have accused Sun of falling behind its competitors when it comes to defining its Web services strategy, an initiative dubbed Sun ONE (Open Network Environment) that was unveiled in February. Sun argues that it has always been at the forefront of Internet-based computing. "It looks like Sun is playing catch-up on the Web services story," said Gordon Benett, senior research analyst at the Aberdeen Group Inc. "J2EE is what the show is largely going to be about."

The Sun ONE and J2EE push can be seen as a response to Microsoft's .NET initiative, which is gradually gaining steam. Both Sun and Microsoft hope to offer software that allow users to access business and personal applications, such as e-mail or customer relationship management (CRM), at any time and from any type of computing device.

Benett said the threat from Microsoft has forced Sun to more actively advance Java and to show how the technology can compete in a world moving towards Web services. "Regardless of what you think of Microsoft, they have helped keep Sun in line," he said.

Sun and Microsoft also compete to provide software for wireless devices such as smart phones and PDAs. Microsoft has been a big player in the handheld market and is also developing software for phones that handle tasks like calendaring or messaging.

Sun brings to the handheld party its J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) specification for smaller devices. NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan's largest wireless carrier, launched a series of Java-enabled phones earlier this year in Japan with Nextel Communications Inc. and Motorola Inc., and followed with a U.S. launch of similar handsets.

As proof of J2ME's growth, Sun cited a swell in applications available for NTT DoCoMo handsets. When the phones were first launched fewer than 50 applications were available; that number has since grown to about 700, according to Sun. With a series of new development tools for J2ME also being announced at the show, Sun expects the application pool to grow further, Harrah said.

Sun and its partners are expected to talk next week about new Java-enabled wireless devices, including a set of handsets due from Nokia Corp. by the end of the year.

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