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Hey Apple, Got J2ME?

Posted by billday on July 2, 2003 at 6:32 AM PDT

I've been re-reading Tim's thoughts on Mac OS X switchers and OS X and the Next Big Thing of late.

You see, my current personal laptop is starting to show its age, and I'm considering alternatives. I've always said I wouldn't consider any system that didn't give me a command line, and now Apple's removed that hurdle. I've always said I had to have Unix tools, and OS X has that in spades. I've always sided with simplicity of design and reliability over complicated Windoze software hairballs, and Apple continues to beat the pants off other laptop OS choices in that department, too.

Given the above, it would seem like my choice is obvious: Dump the complexity of a Linux/Win dual-boot laptop mess and go for a shiny new Mac OS X PowerBook.
But just as I was getting cozy with the idea, I hit a major snag: Though Apple has done a first rate job building in Java desktop and Web development support (J2SE and J2EE developers rejoice!), their J2ME development solutions are zip, zilch, rien.

Given the high priority Apple has assigned to enabling a new kind of productivity application via their iLife vision and iApps, one would think that supporting wireless software development would be a high priority in Cupertino. And given that Apple also supports basic data synchronization with many J2ME enabled devices via iSync (example: the latest rev supports, among other things, Bluetooth synchronization with my Nokia 3650), one might get downright giddy with anticipation of the fantastic J2ME development options that must surely be on offer for OS X.

Unfortunately, one would be very disappointed.

As best I can tell, Apple doesn't currently offer any J2ME development tools. There is no generally available port of the J2ME Wireless Toolkit (WTK) or any other general purpose J2ME development tools or emulators for Mac OS (X, 9, or otherwise). There are some independently available tools
(Michael Power's excellent MIDP 1.0.3 reference implementation port to Mac OS X is one such example), but a search on the Apple Developer Connection site turns up but a single reference to J2ME, and it is an obscure reference to Zentek's i-JADE tools for i-mode development (applicable only to Java devices sold in Japan for the NTT DoCoMo network).

So Tim, here's my answer to your question, "What would you like to see Apple do to better support its independent developer community?":

Apple should support J2ME development as well as it supports J2SE and Tomcat. It should enable all of us Mac OS X fans to build first class apps for the hundreds of millions of Java devices available now and in the near future. It could port and support the WTK on Mac OS X (a relatively straightforward option, and one I'd be glad to help sort out if Apple is interested), or it could one up the current WTK support for Linux, Solaris, and Win32 with some new tool making J2ME development even more productive on Macs. Either way, Apple, I'll buy the next PowerBook off your manufacturing line...and I'll recommend PowerBooks as the J2ME development laptop of choice to anyone and everyone that will listen.

All of this reminds me of the California Milk Processor Board's now classic "Got Milk?" ad campaign. In the ads, people are tempted into some tasty treat such as chewy chocolate chip cookies, only to find out that the milk that would make the treat complete is missing. Chocolate chip cookies without milk, quelle catastrophe!

Apple has the chewy chocolate chip cookie goodness of J2SE and iApps and WiFi+Bluetooth support for Mac OS X. They need to add the "milk" of J2ME development support to tie all of the developer pieces of their wireless and iLife visions together. Apple needs to be able to say "Heck yes!" when someone asks "Got J2ME?"

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