Sun launches updated mobile Java standard

The latest version of the standard set of technologies for Java-capable mobile devices has been finalized and Sun Microsystems Inc. announced at Telecom Asia 2002 on Monday the availability of the finished specification, a reference implementation, test suite and a beta version of a development toolkit.

The second version of the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP), which is a collection of standard APIs (application programming interfaces), includes support for secure HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), simple multimedia features such as audio and video, gaming, push applications and a new range of security functions.

MIDP 2.0 was developed by around 50 companies and individuals as part of Sun’s Java Community Process and comes just over two years since MIDP 1.0 was first published. Like its predecessor, it seeks to define a basic set of APIs for inclusion in every mobile device that supports Java and the new features added to the standard mirror the evolution of cellular telephones in the last two years.

“The goal for MIDP has always been to define the core set of features that are common in mass market handsets,” said Eric Chu, a group marketing manager with Sun. “We have to be careful about balancing the features with what the market will accept.”

The exclusion of an API for a specific feature, such as streaming video, from MIDP 2.0 doesn’t mean it cannot be supported on a Java handset. Carriers are allowed to develop their own custom APIs but the idea is not to burden mass market handsets with APIs for specialized or high-end features until such features become both commonplace and the community can agree on a standard implementation.

Among the new features in MIDP 2.0, Chu said one of the most important is the gaming support.

“The games API gives developers what they need to build games in a short length of time,” he said. The new support extends to sprites, which are independent graphics objects. “In the past, developers had to manage individual pixels but now they can address (a graphic) as one chunk and move the element across the screen with a few simple commands. It will make games run faster and minimize the amount of work developers have to do to move elements on screen.”

The push support will allow servers to deliver information directly to applets running on mobile terminals and remove the need for the applets to poll the servers periodically to see if new updates exist. In the area of multimedia, basic audio support for tones, tone sequences and WAV files has been added.

“We believe as we go forward in 2003, all data capable handsets will have audio capabilities but not all will have streaming capabilities. For those that do, the premier handsets, there is a common (optional) API but you don’t want to force the mid- and low-tier handsets to carry the burden of these capabilities,” said Chu.

With the final specification of MIDP 2.0 now published, it will be up to mobile device makers to put it into products. Chu estimates that the first handsets support the standard will be available in the second quarter of next year.

Most major mobile device makers and carriers played a part in the development of MIDP 2.0. Hardware makers included Ericsson Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Motorola Corp., NEC Corp., Nokia Corp., Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, Research in Motion Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Siemens AG and Sharp Corp. Other large participants included France Telecom SA, J-Phone Co. Ltd., NTT DoCoMo Inc., Orange SA, One2One PLC, PalmSource Inc., Symbian Ltd. and Vodafone Group PLC.