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Shoeing the Other Foot

Posted by editor on July 2, 2003 at 9:20 AM PDT

Hey, I used to work in the wireless software industry... and of course, any sentence that begins with that phrase usually ends in "and we all got laid off". Which we did. But despite that experience, I still have a passing interest in J2ME, even though that the tools for it aren't available on Mac OS X.

Earlier today on java.net, Bill Day lamented that situation. Where Bill and I part ways, is that I don't think it's Apple's responsibility to change that.

First, consider the business case: Sun collects license fees for J2ME implementations, so encouraging development of J2ME apps helps Sun's bottom line. It also helps the device maker to have software available for its device.

Apple is neither of those parties. So really, it shouldn't be surprising that the company is not diving in to spend its own development dollars to allow developers to write apps for devices that Apple does not sell, in order to drive license dollars to Sun.

After all, you don't see Apple going out of its way to encourage development of Windows apps on Macs either.

But you want to know what really bugs me? I want to know why the J2ME WTK has any native-code requirements.

Most (all?) of the tools in the JDK - javac, rmic, javadoc, etc. - are written in Java. So are servlet engines, IDE's like NetBeans, and a handful of desktop applications. And IBM even got MPEG-4 working in Java. Does anyone honestly think that you couldn't emulate a twinkie little cell-phone KVM with J2SE? Ditto, with exclamation points, for the J2ME bytecode verifier.

There's no good reason these things couldn't have been written in Java in the first place, and if there is, then it means Java is a lot less capable than we've been led to believe.

Using native code in tools and development kits retards their distribution and acceptance, especially since Sun seems determined to write Solaris versions and yet not Mac OS X versions. (Folks, Solaris is perfectly nice as a deployment server, but outside of Sun's purple walls, you don't see that many people doing their actual development on Solaris.)

I don't see this as an Apple vs. Sun issue. I see this as a Sun vs. Java issue. And Java is losing.

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