RIM opens up to J2ME

Research In Motion recently introduced a Java 2 Platform developers’ environment for its flagship handheld device and, in doing so, took another step towards falling in line with competitors, according to a Toronto-based analyst.

Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) introduced the BlackBerry Developer Environment for the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) and, with it, opened up the BlackBerry platform to a developer community that’s three million strong, according to RIM statistics.

Mark Guibert, vice-president of brand management at RIM, explained that because Java is common in the development world and Sun Microsystems Inc. has developed the J2ME, it allows companies to employ Java end-to-end, from server to handheld device.

“(J2ME) is wireless friendly and has a small footprint and enables the application to run with less bandwidth than would be required with a hard-line network,” he said. “There’s a number of variables that make it wireless friendly, but basically, you have the same set of standards that can integrate with the back-end Java systems as well. It’s open, so that software developers can leverage their investment in applications across multiple devices.”

The development environment functions as a simulation tool for BlackBerry that uses Sun’s J2ME guidelines and features BlackBerry’s touted always-on connectivity, push technology, end-to-end security, integrated keyboard and back-end integration. Guibert explained that it took a year to make this announcement with Java because the platform has been undergoing a complex process to make it an open standard.

But IDC Canada’s Warren Chaistatien said even with complex announcements like these, the battle for dominance in the handheld computing department is still embryonic.

“They (RIM) know they are fighting with quite a few players out there and one of the key ones is Microsoft with their .NET initiative,” Chaistatien said from his Toronto office. “I think these two camps (Sun and Microsoft) are competing for dominance to become the universal platform and I think RIM is aware of that competitive threat from Microsoft which is looming and real.”

Guibert said the move opens up BlackBerry to allow for a broader range of applications, but still manages to remain unique in the implementation of BlackBerry as a secure, wireless viewer into the corporate network.

“All the infrastructure on the back end of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server software, plus the unique device characteristics, enable that secure viewer into your corporate network,” he said. “Java is the common denominator that allows access to other applications.”