Sun Spotlights Peer-to-Peer, Wireless Solutions
JXTA and J2ME appear to lead the path toward true "write once, run anywhere" application development
By Stefan Grünwedel, Senior Editor
San Francisco (June 6, 2001)
—Continuing the theme of frivolity at JavaOne, today's keynote session featured Java father James Gosling in a skit based on TV's "Survivor," in which he was voted off the island (of Java
, presumably). Not that this had anything to do with anything relevant to the conference, but it allowed the song-and-dance troupe accompanying Gosling to break out into a humorous rendition of "I Will Survive," which took some potshots at Microsoft's .NET initiative.
A Peer Among Peers
Bill Joy finally got on stage and spoke about the revolutionary merits of Project JXTA, (pronounced "juxta"), an industry-wide research project led by Sun that offers developers a way to create flexible, interoperable applications for a variety of devices. This open protocol interoperates with any peer on the network, whether they are PCs, servers, and other (wirelessly) connected devices.
In other words, we're talking about peer-to-peer development. JXTA's key concepts involve creating groups of peers, connecting to them across the network in a distributed fashion, monitoring and controlling policies among peers, and maintaining privacy and security at all times.
Released only six weeks ago on JXTA.org, the source code has already been downloaded 50,000 times, which Joy claimed was quite a success. Yet many more people will have to get involved before it's judged a real success.
"100,000 Java phones is the killer count," Joy said, in order for P2P networking to become possible and practical.
The Wireless Connection
Running a once-written Java application anywhere sounds good in theory, but it's difficult in practice, especially in the wireless arena. The proliferation of wireless devices challenges developers to deliver the same goods to both manufacturers and consumers alike, without endlessly rewriting their code. It's not easy. Carriers don't make it easy for multiple devices to be truly compatible.
Sun's deployment of the Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME) promises to improve compatibilities among devices, and its adoption by the wireless industry bodes well for developers. To date, carriers such as NTT DoCoMo, LG Telecom, and Nextel have deployed 3 million J2ME-enabled wireless handsets. Estimates indicate that Japan will see as many as 20 million by the end of 2001. And that's just Japan. As long as devices support J2ME, developers writing Java apps can deploy them on a wide array of devices.
Not surprisingly, several vendors showcased their J2ME-enabled devices at JavaOne. One example was Motorola's Accompli 009 "personal communicator" and Accompli 008 PDA/phone. Both featured the interesting capability of being able to download new apps wirelessly.
Other vendors showed ways to help make J2ME development even more productive for developers and end users alike. For example, Bonita's Java-based ToGo Mobile Solutions allows customers to share data among applications. In one example I saw, two separately developed apps running on a cell phone were able to combine their functionality: an e-mail address from a database lookup was entered into an outgoing e-mail message so it didn't have to be re-keyed in.
The Tiniest Database
PointBase, which has long made a small-footprint, pure-Java SQL database, announced a single-user version of its product, called PointBase Micro, that's small enough to run on a cell phone. How small? It's a 41K JAR file.
Developers use a subset of the JDBC API to write applications. PointBase Micro is optimized for either the J2ME or J2SE platform, but it is clearly targeted for use in more modest, resource-constricted handheld devices. The product should make it possible for even the smallest Java-enabled cell phones to synchronize data with the server. Data access applications already standardized for the J2ME platform can now be extended to a wider variety of mobile devices.
Borland Fans Get Mobile Dev Assistance
A partnership between Borland and Nokia, announced Monday at the show, will be good news for JBuilder users who have a significant base of Nokia phone users. JBuilder Mobile Set, Nokia Edition is a J2ME-based extension to the JBuilder 5.0 IDE. It gives developers a simple, familiar way of building J2ME applications and optimizing them for Nokia handhelds. It includes visual design tools, device emulation, debugging, and other standard features of the JBuilder environment, according to a press release.