Sun Microsystems Inc. this week will announce an expansion of its Project Jxta peer-to-peer protocol to include handheld devices such as PDAs and wireless phones.
The update will add support for J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), which will enable users of handheld devices to access files or applications and share data with other handhelds, PCs or servers in a Jxta-based P2P network, much in the same way that Napster users once swapped files between computers.
While Jxta already supported Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition for servers, PCs and large handheld devices, J2ME support extends Jxta to wireless phones and smaller PDAs (personal digital assistants) such as Palm Inc. PalmPilots and Handspring Inc. Visors.
Improv Technologies Inc., of New York, which is using Jxta as the transport layer for its Cirquet component software framework, plans to tap into Jxtas support for handhelds, according to Adam Goldberg, director of business development for Improv.
Jxta is the transport for streaming Web services between peers, and Cirquet assembles them on the fly at the client, Goldberg said. Wireless phones and PDAs should be able to take advantage of this technology as well, he said.
"Even on a resource-constrained device, you can stream services one at a time on an as-needed basis," Goldberg said. "You would stream more robust functions to the PDA as needed and release functions from the cache as new functions [are] being streamed in."
Goldberg said applications would have to be fairly simple at this point, due to wireless bandwidth limitations.
"As the bandwidth increases and transport gets faster, youll see a lot more interesting applications," he said. Right now, developers of P2P applications for handheld devices will be limited to simple exchanging of small amounts of data. One such application may be contact management.
Improv envisions that handhelds will serve more as access devices than storage devices in any Jxta-based P2P network, at least until bandwidth increases.
The first beta of Cirquet is expected early next month, with general availability slated for March. Support for mobile devices will likely be included in Cirquet later next year, officials said.
But small PDA and phone support is not for all. Jxta user Internet Access Methods Inc. probably will not support the smaller devices for its collaboration applications. "There really isnt much of a [user interface] on a cell phone," said CEO Gerry Seidman, in New York.
Suns P2P application development platform is well-suited for extension to handhelds because it is device- and platform-independent, Sun officials said.
Jxta accomplishes this agnosticism by connecting peers at the protocol level, such as HTTP or TCP/IP. Many other P2P technologies, such as Groove Networks Inc.s Groove platform, exploit APIs for the peer connections.
Groove Networks, of Beverly, Mass., is not ignoring handhelds, either. The company announced at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas earlier this month that it plans to support Microsoft Corp.s Tablet PC platform and demonstrated a prototype.