Sun cuts wires for Java developers

Sun Microsystems Inc. will cut developers loose from the wired world next week at the JavaOne Conference when it details the next version of its Forte for Java developer tools.

The new version will be offered in an edition specially designed for creating applications to run on wireless devices.

Now two years in the making, Forte for Java is Sun’s IDE (Integrated Development Environment) based on technology developed through the open source project NetBeans. It is a modular application programming environment that allows developers to plug in various tools, such as debuggers and compilers, and use them in a single environment.

Debuting with Version 4.0 of Forte for Java will be a mobile edition designed to give developers a simple, integrated environment for building Java applications that can be used on mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants). Forte for Java is currently available in two editions: a Community Edition for building Web applications that use JSP (Java Server Pages) and an Enterprise Edition that is used to build applications that can be deployed on a J2EE application server.

With the mobile edition, “any application you build is…optimized to work with memory- and resource-constrained devices such as PDAs and mobile phones,” said James Allen, product manager with Sun’s Java tools group. “There’s a set of Java APIs targeted at those devices.”

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company had previously made available a wireless toolkit as a separate product from Forte for Java, according to Nicholas Lorain, senior product manager in Sun’s tools group. Those wireless tools have now been integrated into Forte for Java Version 4.0.

Java programmers are going full-steam after the mobile development market. So far, about 30 devices from 15 manufacturers are available with Java embedded in the operating system, the company said. Manufacturers including Nokia Corp., Motorola Inc., Sony Corp. and L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co. have added a Java runtime environment into some of their devices, enabling them to run applications written in Java.

On desktop PCs, that runtime is called a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) and is used to run Java applications regardless of the processor or operating system that is installed on that PC. For smaller devices that same runtime has been downsized from about 12MB to 500KB and is called a KVM (Kilobyte Virtual Machine).

Sales of mobile devices supporting Java are gaining momentum. About 15 million Java-enabled mobile devices shipped in 2001, according to Sun. It expects about 100 million of the devices to have shipped by the end of this year and nearly 700 million by the end of 2004.

The early release of Forte for Java Version 4.0 was made available to developers on Sun’s Web site earlier this month. The final version is expected to be available mid-year. In addition to the new built-in wireless development support, the tools can also now be used for building applications that run BEA Systems Inc.’s WebLogic application server and Oracle Corp.’s Oracle9i server software, Sun said.

However, the tools still lack support for IBM Corp.’s application server, which relies on a competing IDE called Eclipse, according to Simon Phipps, Sun’s chief technology evangelist.

“We haven’t got the bandwidth to do that,” Phipps said, in regard to adding IBM to its roster. “It takes a significant amount of work on both sides, and it hasn’t taken place on either side.”

In addition to its wireless developer tools, Sun plans to release the second early-access version of the Java Web Services Developer Pack at JavaOne, the company said. The first test release of that Web services toolkit was released to developers in January.

“We’re taking a lot of the manual steps that would be involved in configuring (Web services) and making that whole process easier for the developer,” said Peter Kacandes, senior product manager with Sun’s Web services tools division.

The Java Web Services Developer Pack is expected to be ready for final release around June and to be included in the final release of Forte for Java Version 4.0.