Technology seems at times to proceed at a breakneck pace. The downside to this expectation for a consistently high rate of technological improvement is that at other times, progress comes at a more leisurely pace - analogous to watching paint dry or sloth racing.
For example, announcements about chip-design developments and the associated higher CPU speeds seem to appear weekly. Intel, IBM, AMD, (name your company), are engaged in a constant competition to outdo the others as they increase speed, reduce power consumption, and introduce new manufacturing processes. However, waiting for those advances to trickle down to consumer devices definitely rates as one of those "paint-drying" experiences.
Another example is the recent announcement regarding organic LEDs (light emitting diodes) by Eastman Kodak and Sanyo. Potentially, organic LEDs will be simpler (and therefore cheaper) to produce than current liquid crystal displays; they'll shine brighter than LCDs and consume less power. A number of large companies are racing to bring these displays to the mass market, and technology like this will eventually have a direct effect on you as a J2ME developer. Forget those stock-ticker and mobile-commerce applications you're working on - it's time for some truly vivid multimedia. Though, on reflection, it will no doubt turn into a waiting game once again before consumers, or developers for that matter, really see the benefit. Might as well go back to that stock ticker after all.
High on my wish list (to see in action), after reading a recent press release from aJile Systems (www.ajile.com), is the JEMcore Java processor core, which uses Java bytecode for its native instruction set. To quote directly from the release: "The aJile hardware, with 100% Java technology software drivers, delivers a 320x240 pixel, 18-bit, full-color display running at 15 frames per second." When you consider that the minimum frame rate for smooth animation is usually cited as 24 frames per second, JEMcore is not quite there, but it's definitely close enough so you can have some serious fun with it.
Also on my list is a Java-enabled PDA from Sharp. Back in March a news item on Bloomberg declared that Sharp would be using Java on its communications devices with PDAs slated to be first. Since then, it has been hard to find any further information on Sharp's plans - so once again it's a case of twiddling your thumbs until a product is officially released.
J2ME presents a unique opportunity for developers. Try as I might I can't think of another time in computing history when a development environment was freely available before most people had access to the hardware. (Note: This can mean one of two things: either there hasn't been another occasion, or my knowledge of the history of the industry is embarrassingly lacking.) Whether this is true or not, we as programmers have the unusual chance to become completely familiar with the platform very early on. Certainly you can imagine a critical mass of developers and applications building up in the near future and, as a consequence, even more Java-enabled devices appearing on the market as manufacturers rush to take advantage of this.
In addition to bringing opportunities, J2ME also brings its own novel collection of challenges. The platform is targeted at such a broad range of devices, from the most tiny to things like set-top boxes, which can be close to a computer in size, there's not much chance we'll get bored with the choices. There'll be new virtual machines to come to grips with, new APIs, and new ways of doing things. Micro Edition seems destined to satisfy the saying, "Variety is the spice of life."
It's an exciting time for mobile and embedded Java development. It'll be very interesting to see what happens, both to the platform and within the industry over the next few years.
This is my first foray as an editor for JDJ, and I'm looking forward to bringing you as much useful information about mobile development and the embedded market as can be squeezed into these pages. Perhaps a smaller font and a magnifying glass would be helpful?
Jason Briggs works as a Java analyst programmer in London. He's been officially developing in Java for three years - unofficially for just over four.