Sun sees Java focus shifting to clients

Providing a consistent way to run Java programs on PCs, cell phones and other client computers is the next hurdle in the evolution of Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Java technology, the head of Sun’s Java and XML (Extensible Markup Language) software group said at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco on Monday.

With Java now an established technology for creating business-to-business and other server-side applications, developers need a standard way to extend those server programs and make them accessible from a growing universe of Java-enabled client devices, said Rich Green, vice-president and general manager for Java and XML at Sun.

“We take the position of clients very seriously,” Green told a crowded hall of developers on the first day of Sun’s JavaOne. “The role of clients in driving the network architecture is paramount to the whole Java model.”

To boot, Sun has submitted a proposal to the Java Community Process that defines a standard way for developers to extend Java-based Web services applications to phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other devices that use Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME), he announced. Included in the specification will be APIs (application programming interfaces) and other technologies that provide a standard way for delivering Web services applications to portable devices. The Java Community Process is a multivendor group set up by Sun that approves new Java standards.

The proposal is backed by tools makers including Borland Software Corp., and Metrowerks Inc. as well as gadget makers Research in Motion Ltd., Siemens AG and Nokia Corp., according to Green. Sun hopes the specification request, number 172, will be ready for approval by mid-2003.

“What this technology is designed to do is extend the Web services standards — the SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and XML protocols — to Java handsets” and other client devices, he said.

Equally important is having a common Java runtime environment for desktop PCs — something the Sun executive went to court last week to try to enforce. Green testified on behalf of nine of the states that didn’t settle with Microsoft Corp. and are pursuing their lawsuit against the company to seek behavioral restrictions to rein in its behavior.

In particular, Green told the court that Microsoft should be required to include a current Java Virtual Machine with Windows XP and other Microsoft products, allowing Java programs to run on Microsoft software. Microsoft’s .Net software products are Java’s main rival and Microsoft recently stopped supporting the technology in its products. Many PC makers have been installing Java virtual machines (JVMs) on PCs before selling them, providing the key piece of software needed to run a Java program.

“Call up Intel (PC makers), make sure they’re including the latest version of Java with Windows XP,” Green urged developers here.

He also announced two new JVMs for gadgets that he said should boost performance and graphics capabilities and help to conserve battery life. Developed under the code name Project Monty, the new JVMs from Sun make use of a compiler technology used in its HotSpot VM for servers, he said.

Sun is also set to announce changes Tuesday to the Java Community Process that align it more closely with the open-source model of software development, Green said, without offering specifics. The changes are part of an effort to attract more Java developers — which total about 3 million today — and widen the Java community as a whole, he said.

He also announced the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) Application Verification Kit, which lets developers test Java applications to ensure they will run across application servers from various vendors.

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