Sun moves to unify Java

A common platform, and having Java as a ubiquitous programming language, is something that gives Wayne Pau a bit of a buzz – and it isn’t from a caffeine high.

As a developer and chief technology officer for Kitchener, Ont.-based Wired, Pau said he believes in the single framework fundamentals that Sun Microsystems Inc. announced at its recent JavaOne Conference held in San Francisco in June.

His company has created a workflow solution for snow removal services based on the mobile Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME). The solution has been designed around a cell phone, bar code scanner and Web-based reporting.

“We are one of those types of companies where we…will go into your pocket in a cell phone. We will reach into the network. We will go into the browsers in your computer and your desktop application,” Pau said.

The move towards having Java technologies exist on a common platform is a key goal for Sun, said Jonathan Schwartz, the company’s executive vice-president of software.

End-to-end flexibility is important to him, he said.

“We’ve got to get back to finding a common platform. All [the Java] technologies need to come together in one common architecture,” Schwartz told thousands of faithful Java users, developers and customers at the Moscone Center during JavaOne.

Instead of employing Java technology separately throughout the enterprise – from Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE), to the standard Java 2 Platform Standard Edition (J2SE) and J2ME – Schwartz said the company is working to create a single Java system by pulling everything together, including smart cards, under one common theme.

“We need a Java system that not only pulls in application program interfaces (APIs) but also delivers a desktop system with security and a developer system,” he said, predicting that this would develop a new market for Java developers.

A common infrastructure would not only improve the platform by delivering one Java system, it would also propel the network effect and grow the market, Schwartz added.

Schwartz said there are currently 100 million Java-enabled devices in the world and three million developers using the Java platform. By unifying the platform, Sun said it could attract more developers and increase the developer base to 10 million.

Toronto-based David Senf, e-business operations manager at IDC Canada Ltd., said Sun’s push to integrate J2EE, J2SE and J2ME makes sense for the company.

“It gives Java a stronger foothold as employees become more mobile,” he said. “The importance is the ability of organizations to be able to push data out from the back ends onto the desktop; from the back end to a mobile device – and to do this very seamlessly.”

The integration makes it easier for developers to build applications, Senf added. “It’s a win from the developers perspective because it makes their jobs easier. It’s also a win for Java and Sun, to be able to have more arsenal when they are heading against companies like Microsoft (Corp.).”

Chris Erickson, president and chief operating officer of Tira Wireless Inc., a wireless application publisher and technology provider based in Toronto, also says the integration of the Java platforms is important.

“Sun is taking first step,” he said. “It’s a very important first step to raise the bar of quality.”

Erickson says issues such as device fragmentation and application quality will stand to benefit from Java moving to a common infrastructure.

“Somebody needs to help make sure that these applications go on every single device, and that consumers understand that the Java brand means that an application is going to work on every single Java device.”

Describing the integration as Java investment payback, Paxton Cooper, Sun’s group manager of enterprise solutions, said J2ME applications will be made broadly available.

“Now that J2ME is becoming so pervasive on mobile devices… and J2EE is being so broadly adopted, enterprises are getting their payback,” he said. “It’s going to be very easy to take a business application (that enterprises have) already written and make it available for a mobile user.”