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Adieu Java ME?

Posted by terrencebarr on October 23, 2007 at 3:04 AM PDT

Just came across this c|net article titled "Sun starts bidding adieu to mobile-specific Java"  (see also a slanted and partially inaccurate article by The Register) - which  sounds quite dramatic until you set the context.

The long-standing trend of hardware evolution is especially obvious in mobile and embedded devices that today can comfortably execute a level of  software complexity unimaginable just a few years ago. Devices sporting 200 MHz or more and 32 MB or more of dynamic memory are moving into the realm of desktop machines of just a few years ago.

That, quite naturally, means that more people will be trying to run Java SE on these devices. SavaJe, for example, was one of the early proponents of this shift (SavaJe was aquired by Sun earlier this year and the technology now forms the basis of Sun's Java FX Mobile effort). Two or three years ago a Java SE stack would really push the limits and devices would struggle to cope with the code. Today high-end devices run Java SE quite comfortably. So, naturally over time, we will see more and more Java SE on such devices. However, this progression is not as quick and black-and-white as it seems.

  • First, the vast majority of embedded devices today and for some time to come either are not powerful enough to run Java SE,  don't need to run Java SE, or are not targeted to run Java SE for cost- and footprint reasons (remember that high-end mobile phones are just a tiny fraction of the overall market)
  • Second, many key APIs for the mobile space (see the components in the Mobile Services Architecture/MSA 248) are targeted for the CLDC and CDC space and are not available or not well-suited for use in Java SE environments at this point (this will probably change in the future)
  • Third, the current Java SE UI and graphics model (Swing, in particular) may not be a good match for the requirements of small screens and mobile input methods
  • And last but not least, there is still a large market of Java ME (MIDP & MSA) applications out there and will be for years to come along with a huge installed base of devices. The fact that Java FX Mobile will support MSA applications is testament to that.

So while the migration to Java SE for some of the more powerful new mobile platforms makes a lot of sense there is still a lot of room and growth for Java ME-based technologies for years to come. These technologies are not mutually exclusive but coexist and complement each other. And stay tuned for more updates and exciting news in the next coming months around Java ME.

As you have come to expect, the Mobile & Embedded Community will follow these trends and expand its coverage of  Java SE aspects and technologies as the mobile and embedded space evolves.

See also the blog entry by James Gosling on the topic.

Latest news: An interview with Laurie Tolson, Vice President of the Client Software Group at Sun.

-- Terrence

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