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Special Report: State of the Java Art

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Bringing Mobility to the Table
Mobile Java development issues stir passions at the 2006 Java Technology Roundtable
Moderated by Simon Phipps

May 24, 2006

A unique highlight of the 2006 Java Technology Roundtable, which was held during the week of JavaOne in San Francisco, was discussion of development issues in the mobile device industry. Among the panel of distinguished experts and thought leaders was John Bostrom, chief Java architect at Nokia. Roundtables in prior years didn't include a participant from the mobile sector of the industry, and Bostrom's participation in the 2006 version clearly reflects the vibrant state of the mobile application development space in general as well as the Java mobile development space, in particular. Mobility was touched on a few times during the discussion, but deep into the event the panel's moderator, Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun Microsystems, invited Bostrom to kick off a more detailed discussion of issues regarding the Java ME platform, innovation for mobile devices, and the impact that network operators have on that innovation.


Simon Phipps: Earlier on, Jon made a brave and laudable attempt to drag the conversation into talking about Java ME.

Larry Cable: We beat him down.

Jon Bostrom: I feel like things are stacked against me here.

Cable: I'm still waiting for the killer app, damn you.

Phipps: That is the question that I want to ask. I've sat through many interesting presentations at JavaOne over many years now, telling me that next year is the year of mobile Java. And, well, is next year the year of mobile Java? If so, how is it going to happen? If not, why not? And do we really have to have Web services on phones? Jon, do you want to kick us off?

Bostrom: I'll kick it off. Our marketing guys have come up with a great buzz phrase that will stir everybody up, and it's: "mobile Java as the remote control for Web 2.0." So think about that for just a while.

Mike Milinkovich: It sounds like the marketing people are on the edge.

Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse Foundation: "It sounds like the [Nokia] marketing people are on the edge."   Larry Cable, BEA: "I'm still waiting for the killer app, damn you."

Bostrom: As I pointed out just a little bit earlier, mobile Java has always been sneered at a little bit. You know, it's not a real VM, it's on the CLDC stuff, it's for games, and it's for toys. But you know we have taken some big evolutionary steps [with] the processing power and the community power that you get now because mobile devices when they start to connect—we've now got mobile devices that have five radios in them; they can connect by a Bluetooth, they can connect by a WiFi, they can connect by a GSM or a CPMA—they are the community at the edge.

And what's been holding us back is that the form of Java that we've had has been so crippled that we haven't been able to innovate, especially on the connectivity stuff. And again, it's partly because we haven't been able to stand—you know, Bill Joyce is talking about standing on the shoulders of giants—and we haven't been able to do that on the mobile because every time somebody wanted to build something they had to build from the ground up, and this middleware structure starts to change that, where you can start to make interesting things.

Jon Bostrum
Jon Bostrom, Nokia: "Our marketing guys have come up with a great buzz phrase: 'mobile Java as the remote control for Web 2.0.'"
I'll leave it by saying one of the things that we've actually got built up now that we're demoing is this ability to make mobile mashups, where in this piece of Java middleware you make a mashup that talks to a little bit of Google, a little bit of Yahoo, and a little bit of Flickr, and then you stick a little simple API on that so that anybody sitting up on top can write to that. And they don't have to understand about the network doing the caching because as hard as it is from servers and PCs, this network caching, error-handling paradigm from a mobile device is much harder because you have multiple networks, all of them are unreliable, and you never know what's going to happen. So this ability to start layering that stuff on there is going to make a huge difference, and we're going to see cool stuff popping out of there when you give the developers these capabilities.

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