A recent press release from Palm got me thinking about their PDAs, as well as why Palm (in the UK) never returned my e-mails...but that's another matter (and half a world away now). In any case, according to the release, 5,000 Palms are to be purchased as part of a three-year grant program for several New York State school associations. Apart from wishing I was the salesperson who got the commission on that particular contract, I wonder whether Java is in the equation for any application suites being developed (if they are) as part of that system roll out. And if not, why not?
If Java is not being considered, a colleague of mine thought of a reason. Polish. No, not people from Poland - the other meaning/pronunciation (i.e., to remove flaws from; to perfect or complete). To paraphrase his words - the JVM for the Palm suffers from a certain lack of polish compared to other applications available for the OS.
Personally, I think the Palm JVM has really improved since I first looked at it, and it's definitely better than VMs I've seen running on Windows CE, in terms of integration with the device, for example.
Java has a history of this "lack of polish" on the client side. Compare the hiccup that is an applet starting up in your browser with the smoothness of Macromedia's Flash and you'll know what I mean. However, in comparison with desktop Java, I don't think the Palm VM is really that bad, so I hope that whoever is advising the associations is giving the idea some serious thought.
One of the killer applications for the Palm seems to be electronic books. Considering the price of a number of eBook "readers" I've seen, PDAs, like the Palm, are a cost-effective alternative - so it's hardly surprising that eBooks are doing relatively well. However, the major problem I see with the whole concept of downloading books is that I quite like wandering down to a bookstore, picking a title off the shelf, and reading a few pages to see if I like it. Not that I don't also like browsing online, but the traditional retail book-buying experience definitely still has its allure. I'm not sure if I'm exactly representative of society as a whole, but I guess there's a good percentage of people out there who feel the same.
Stick with me here - I'm going off on a tangent.
I recently read on CNET that Sony is endeavoring to make their memory stick a de facto standard. I'm sure you've come across these odd little storage cards before, but in case you haven't - imagine a stick of Wrigley's chewing gum and you're halfway there. Whether or not they succeed in becoming the market standard, I have to say I quite like the memory stick. They seem a lot more convenient to lug around in larger numbers (and how is that pickpocket supposed to know that the pack of chewing gum in my pocket isn't actually chewing gum...unless of course they like chewing gum...?).
So here's the crazy idea for the month. The old "walk-in-and-browse" bookshops remain the way they are, but with a slight difference. Rather than stocking books, they stock something like a pamphlet - a standard book jacket (with cover and summary on the back) plus a few excerpted pages inside. It would work in a similar fashion to the way music stores do now - you take the cover up to the counter and they pull a CD out of a cupboard - except in this case, they pull a memory stick out of the cupboard with the book loaded on it. Those who want to browse in a shop can still do so - those who want to browse online can still do their purchasing on the Net. People like me, who enjoy doing both, are happy as well. And the humble PDA (Palms, Handsprings, Cliés, and the like) will make an admirable reader until the various companies inventing electronic paper (or whatever they're calling it) bring the technology to market.
Now to make sure that the infrastructure for all this is implemented in Java...
Jason R. Briggs is a Java analyst programmer and - sometimes - architect. He's been officially developing in Java for almost four years, "unofficially for five."