83 South King Street, Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206 749-9070
Fax: 206 749-9036
Operating software: J2ME 1.0 or higher, MIDP 1.0 or higher
Memory requirements: 128K runtime memory; 65K flash memory without WMLScript or WAP Stack; 115K flash memory including
WMLScript without WAP Stack; 170K flash memory including WMLScript and WAP Stack
Before we get started, it's worthwhile noting that I'm not a big fan of WAP. Well, not the protocol itself exactly, but WML-based Web sites - the whole idea of browsing the Web on your mobile seems somewhat flawed when your screen real estate is minimal and you probably have only one more color than Henry Ford wanted for his cars.
So when 4thpass offered me a look at their KBrowser for MIDP and Palm devices, I wasn't expecting to be that enthused. Sure, it's written in Java - feel free to clock me over the back of the head with a large shoe if I ever turn up my nose at a look at a good Java application - but it's WAP. If you've ever used a WAP phone (or know someone who has) you undoubtedly know the rhyme that goes along with it: WAP is crap. Okay, so maybe you haven't heard it, and I hang out with some really unimaginative people.
But I have to say, this is one neat little product. The evaluation version 4thpass sent to me was an enormous 69KB in size and easy to install on my Zucotto WHITEboard device emulator; soon I was browsing WAP sites to my heart's content (slight exaggeration there, but you get what I mean). The KBrowser supports various industry standards, including WAP 1.2, HTTP, WMLScript, WTLS Security, and the draft WAP 2.0 - not bad going for an application that's smaller than a lot of normal Web-site graphics.
A Change of Mind
In the end I actually enjoyed checking out a few WAP sites. The TV Guide on Yahoo seems like something I would use fairly regularly, since I'm consistently forgetting to buy the paper on Thursday (the free weekly TV guide day), and have to turn on my computer just to check out what's on television.
Who needs a browser built into the phone when you can just download the KBrowser onto your J2ME-capable device!
Figure 1 provides some shots of KBrowser in action.
Clockwise from top left:
an image alignment test in the KBrowser Test Suite; the weather forecast from
the test suite; ; the menu of the "Kung fu training" game at www.kung-fuboy.com/wap/; an "almost-subliminal" advert on the Docklands Light Rail
travel information site (www.kizoom.co.uk/dlr/i.jsp);
the cartoon site - wap.cartoonscape.com;
the Yahoo UK TV Guide.
4thpass provided some background technical information on its KBrowser development
efforts, and Javed Chaudry, director of marketing/communications, was kind enough
to answer my questions.
<briggs>: How long did the browser take to develop?
<chaudry>: We began with a KBrowser Palm edition
and leveraged much of that expertise into the J2ME version, so the overall process
was about two years.
<briggs>: How big is/was the team?
<chaudry>: This was a collaborative effort for
<briggs>: Why develop a browser? How big do you expect your market to
be - and what is your intended market for that matter?
<chaudry>: The KBrowser proved that Java and WAP
don't have to be competing technologies. Java can leverage WAP for its primary
use, the transport. The KBrowser also completes our end-to-end provisioning
solution (the mobile application system). Our provisioning solution works with
any J2ME-enabled device, but we offer the KBrowser as an optional component.
We're working with companies like Sun, RIM, and LG TeleCom in Korea to name a few. We expect the market to be very large. As the number of J2ME devices grows, so grows the market. The Java marketplace now has buy-ins from companies such as Motorola, Nextel, Nokia, Siemens, and Sprint.
<briggs>: Which parts of the application were easier to develop because of Java?
<chaudry>: No parts in particular stand out. Java's
lack of pointers and use of garbage collection tend to help Java development
<briggs>: Do you have any recommendations or advice for other J2ME developers?
<chaudry>: We would tell developers to remember
three things: code size is king, speed is queen, and heap size is an unfriendly
concubine. They all fight, constantly.
This was the first in a series of articles on software developed for the J2ME platform. If you have developed a J2ME app (MIDlet or PersonalJava) that you think JDJ should feature, let us know.
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.