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Virtual Insanity

Posted by editor on August 22, 2008 at 6:18 AM PDT

Is Java ME's development cost zero or infinity?

There's an interesting and rather contentious difference of opinions on Danny Coward's blog this morning. In Numbers that Count, he looks at how many mobile phones are out there (2.7 million phones are sold every day, according to research cited by the SDN article Java ME Technology: Everything a Developer Needs for the Mobile Market), which he contrasts with a much smaller number:

Zero is the cost of entry to develop an application for Java ME, which is deployed today on many of that staggering number of devices (for a complete list, see here). No complicated agreements to get the Java ME SDK, the development of the platform is out in the open, so everyone sees it unfold at the same time. Better the free visual development environment for Java ME has been pretty great for some time now.

This assertion, while compelling, drew a pretty sharp rebuke from reader Sam Halliday:

Your "zero" does not count the cost of paying ridiculous amounts of money to the Unified Testing Initiative if you want to obtain a certificate to access most of the useful APIs. Plus manual purchase of certificates for the older handsets that don't support UTI. More complaining

So what is the cost of developing an ME application for the real world? Zero, because you don't have to pay for tools? Infinity, because you have to pay to get tested and signed for a potentially unlimited number of devices and carriers (some of which don't accept third party apps at all)? Something in between?

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Is Java ME's development cost zero or infinity?


And the main cost factor in most any development effort that's not taken into account here is manpower (and the hardware those people need, from desks, telephones, coffee machines, and toilets to computers and phones to test the product on).

Those are very real cost items even for a one man shop. If your product doesn't recover the effort you put into it you're not going to be able to pay the bills after all. If you spend 2 months writing that thing you need to recover at least the money you'd have earned doing a paid job or you're running a loss.

To answer your question of Zero or Infinite costs on JavaME, the answer is Infinite, unless you have something that the operators feel can bring them in money, then they might lower the cost or even be slightly helpful. :) Having worked on JavaME for over 9 years (yup, back when kvm, and Spotlets where just starting in 1999) and working with Ericsson, Handmark, Disney, etc.. I have seen how the more money you can throw at a problem, the less money you need. It's totally stupid. The independent developers have been forsaken because we are seen as the enemy, and trying to corrupt the mobile operators environment. While I am sure there are those BlackHats that are jerks, there are more of us honest developers just trying to make cool things for everyone to use and make life easier and maybe fun. Of course there are so-called "developer" that just have no business in mobile, or for that matter developing code period. These clowns make awful code that brings down the network, or devices, rendering the device useless. As a protection mechanism operators have to treat us all like idiots, instead of just the idiots. So if they make the process complex, and costly that will deter the idiots. Nope, by definition they are too silly to realize that these challenges are to deter them, and those of us that know what we are doing are too annoyed to bother dealing with the operators silliness. On the other hand folks like Apple, and Rim get it, and provide everything needed for a one time fee of $99. Wow, that is perfect, that is reasonable, and I have am totally on board with these folks. I can only hope Google's Android follows this path, and not the Certs out the wazoo path that JavaME has fallen into. I would hope that JavaME could get out of this pit of doom, but with the JavaCertified program that seems to only promote this lunacy. These opinions are mine, and do not represent the views or opinions of anyone that I have, do or will work for. :) -Shawn