Its Tool Time for Java Developers

Trying to lure developers onto the bandwagon for its two biggest software pushes

Trying to lure developers onto the bandwagon for its two biggest software pushes of the moment—J2ME and Sun ONE—Sun Microsystems Inc. and its partners are rolling out Java-based tools to help build both wireless applications and Web services.

On the wireless front, Sun at its JavaOne Developers Conference here last week announced expanded third-party handset support for Java 2 Micro Edition. The J2ME version of Java is designed for cell phones, personal digital assistants and other devices.

In addition to a demonstration by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Sun of an early version of a Samsung J2ME-enabled handset, companies including Sprint PCS Group, Vodafone Group plc., Cingular Wireless, Far EasTone Telecommunications Co., J-Phone Group, KDDI Corp., Omnitel Pronto Italia S.p.A., One 2 One Personal Communications Ltd., SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings Ltd. and Telefonica S.A. announced plans to deploy or test J2ME this year.

Already, NTT DoCoMo Inc., LG Telecom and Nextel Communications Inc. have incorporated J2ME into 3 million wireless handsets, Sun officials said. Buoyed by the additional vendor support, Java-enabled phones are predicted to grow to 20 million by years end.

Sun and its partners are now trying to boost the number of wireless applications available. The new Java Wireless Developer Initiative, which includes backing from Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc., will give developers an online resource to find tools and support for building wireless applications. Metrowerks Inc., a subsidiary of Motorola that announced new versions of its CodeWarrior tools with J2ME support, is among the participants.

While developers said the infrastructure support for J2ME needs to mature, tools will help their cause.

Tools "are absolutely critical," said Burt Johnson, president of MindStorm Inc., in Berkeley, Calif., and a Metrowerks customer. "Ive had several times in the past where Ive stayed away from new technologies because the tools werent there yet."

New York-based ThinAirApps Inc. showcased technology to access relational databases from J2ME and other platforms, the first in a line of products designed to make it easier to build wireless applications. "Well see J2ME proliferate quite well on handsets and on Palm as well," said Nathanial Freitas, chief technology officer of ThinAirApps.

Sun is also aware of the need to boost development initiatives around its Web services strategy, Sun ONE (Open Net Environment). The Palo Alto, Calif., company announced plans to release its Web Services Pack, a single download containing technologies and APIs to simplify development and ease integration with various development environments.

Java-based Web services got other support. Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, unveiled the HP Core Services Framework. Due as a free download at months end, CSF will enable interoperability and reuse of software components. Bowstreet Inc. and BEA Systems Inc. announced an alliance to accelerate developing tools to help customers create Web services.

Developers embraced the concept of Web services, and several said their companies already have done Web services-type work. Whats important now is the standards that are being wrapped around Web services, which will lead to more support and more tools.