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With the growth of the wireless industry, and telecommunications providers realizing the potential of provisioning personalized mobile applications for customers, Java developers are positioned to capitalize on a tremendous market opportunity. The number of wireless communications devices installed worldwide has already exceeded the number of desktop PCs, and more explosive growth is anticipated.

While new technologies create unprecedented opportunities for telecommunications companies, their core competencies lie in the network itself, not the content delivered on it, and beg for the development of compelling consumer products and services. As in other industries, content will become king and Java developers will play a key role in providing fresh content in the form of applications.

The rapid evolution of the wireless marketplace means carriers need skilled support to deliver value-added services, particularly with the imminent arrival and adoption of GPRS and 3G. The variety of applications that consumers will want is seemingly endless. While no one particular killer app for mobile use is in sight, it's pretty clear that the killer app for a teenaged girl in Texas is significantly different from that for a middle-aged man in Helsinki, despite the fact that both demographics are wired. Mobile operators simply won't keep up with demand for the variety of applications that the consumer will want unless they look to third-party developers to generate the applications and content for their network.

Sun's J2ME Creates Universal Standard for Wireless Devices
Until recently, mobile devices represented a developer's worst nightmare because they typically have no standard operating system, microbrowser, or form factor, meaning all applications had to be written for specific devices.

To combat these limitations, Sun has taken a step toward creating a product that addresses the need for a universal standard for wireless devices. Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) is Sun's version of Java aimed at machines with limited hardware resources, such as PDAs, cell phones, and other consumer electronic and embedded devices. J2ME addresses the needs of devices with as little as 128KB of RAM and with processors a lot less powerful than those used on typical desktop and server machines.

Like the other Java technologies (J2SE and J2EE), the J2ME platform maintains these advantages:

  • Built-in consistency across products to run anywhere, anytime, over any device
  • Portability of the code
  • Leveraging of same Java programming language
  • Safe network delivery
In addition, applications written with J2ME technology are upwardly scalable to work with the J2SE and J2EE platforms, creating a platform that enables thin-client applications to work in a larger client/server environment.

Beyond these cross-technology advantages, J2ME extends the promise of Java by eliminating the problem of device proliferation while also providing additional benefits. Through caching on the device, it solves the problem of spotty network coverage. It also provides graphic capabilities for wireless devices, representing even more development opportunities. Applications written in Java are future-proofed to evolve with the hardware. Devices that support Java permit easy upgrades of applications on hardware so that consumers can easily change or customize their devices as needed.

J2ME Gaining Widespread Acceptance
Network operators, such as Cingular, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Telefonica, and others, have publicly proclaimed their support for J2ME. Device manufacturers, such as Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, and Research in Motion (RIM), are building J2ME into their next-generation wireless handsets. Soon, the majority of mobile phones, including less expensive models, will be able to run applications written in Java. In fact, Nokia has predicted that in 2002 it will sell more than 50-million handsets with Java, and even more by the end of 2003 - populating the world with at least 100-million Java-equipped mobile phones. Furthermore, J2ME technologies also played a major role at JavaOne 2001, Sun's worldwide Java developer conference, signaling the mainstream acceptance of Java on mobile devices, smart cards, and in embedded solutions.

Based on this widespread support, the message to developers is loud and clear - real J2ME-based devices are on sale today; network operators are beginning to deploy the technologies to support downloadable Java code to devices, and ASPs and traditional ISVs are currently developing software based on J2ME. Tremendous opportunity abounds. Now that the technologies are ready and rapid adoption is underway, developers should be hustling to build and deploy real solutions for Java-powered devices.

Consumers will also benefit. Since Java is platform-independent, programs will become vendor-independent; for example, apps written for Motorola phones will be able to run on mobile phones from NEC without changes. By selecting a Java-enabled phone, consumers won't be limited to games and applications bundled with the firmware on their phone, but will be able to replace them with new ones - downloadable anytime.

Keys to Success
To encourage the development community to build such applications, carriers must manage their channel effectively. They must make it easy for the developer to roll out applications to the consumer and provide the billing and metering services for the developer, ensuring royalties are tracked. A market for third-party J2ME applications will flourish when carriers can effectively target applications to specific consumers and direct payments to developers based on usage.

To effectively meet these two conditions, ATG has developed a service-delivery solution that will provide server infrastructure support for Java technology-enabled wireless devices. Named the ATG Mobile Application Provisioner, it helps the developer as well as the consumer. First, it provides developers with access to wireless carriers' customers and billing services so that the developer community can leverage the carriers as a distribution channel for their applications. Second, it uses scenario-driven personalization so that carriers can design highly targeted offers to their customers.

To keep the consumer happy, network operators must ensure that consumers are offered the right application, at the right time, on the right device. Consumers must view these new applications and services as a benefit, not a blatant mechanism for generating revenue on the carrier's part. Furthermore, consumers want one bill, and developers want a simplified way to track and collect royalties. Successful carriers will extend their already robust billing and metering capabilities to seamlessly bill consumers for new applications and services whether created by the carrier or by a third-party developer.

By considering contextual information such as time of day, location, and past behavior, carriers can target the offering of new applications to individual consumers. For instance, a consumer who has purchased a map of the New York City subway system while on a trip to Manhattan, would probably view it as a benefit to be offered a map of London's Tube system the next time he or she lands at Heathrow. This hyperpersonalization ensures that the consumer is not presented with irrelevant offerings, while also specifically targeting the application to qualified buyers. For the developer, this means there's a higher likelihood of purchase and increased revenue potential.

Through advanced personalization capabilities, carriers that provide feedback to the developer on the application's success will ensure that their content is always fresh and always relevant. For example, a developer of a wildly successful 1.0 version of a game should be encouraged monetarily to develop a version 2.0. Likewise, targeting those users of version 1.0 should provide a great base of customers for the 2.0 version.
The convergence of wireless hardware and software is inevitable. J2ME is the current leader and standard by which this convergence is starting. By effectively managing relationships with suppliers and consumers in the development community, carriers will be able to reap the rewards of J2ME.

Author Bio
Kimberly Martin is a product manager for ATG, a provider of relationship management and e-commerce products and services. She's responsible for product direction and strategy for the mobile and wireless market. [email protected]

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