The whole wireless space has been an interesting one to keep an eye on for the past couple of years, in particular how it relates to the Java space. Sure, we've heard wonderful tales about the vast millions of phones in Japan and how quickly Java is being adopted there, but for the rest of us here in the West, it's not quite as exciting. Regular readers know only too well my woes with my Nokia and the lack of Java support. The question is this: Is it a pipe dream or is it really coming?
That was the question I posed to Nokia at JavaOne. Whereby I was given the usual marketing pitch about the great array of developer's tools and shown the nice color chart of all the models that have been Java-enabled. Naturally, I ooh'd and ah'd in the right places. I then asked to what extent would the KVM be integrated. For example, would I be able to access the hundreds of telephone numbers already stored in my Nokia address book? The answer was no! Excuse me? Okay, try not to panic, I thought, not a major problem. I just need to import them to my Java application and they can reside there. I asked for confirmation that my Java application would be able to make phone calls from my now imported contact list. No was the answer again, "That would be a security risk and violate the openness of the specification."
At this point, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Is this true? We have a phone...whose main purpose in life is to make calls. That's its calling, to use a very bad pun. We can load applications on it that can't actually take advantage of the core functionality of the phone? Major oversight, wouldn't you say? Tell me again why I want my next phone to be Java-enabled? Someone please e-mail me and tell me I'm wrong.
At JavaOne, I had a great meeting with Bruce Scott from PointBase; he kindly spent time discussing what they were doing and where they see the future of J2ME. For those of you who don't know the name, Bruce was the main engineering man behind the database at Oracle, so when he talks about databases, you kinda wanna listen.
PointBase was doing some cool stuff with syncing technology, as they had given up hope regarding the always-on network, and their clients were looking for real-world solutions they could use today. It was a great JDBC database/driver that operated at the J2ME level. You would simply tag the table columns you wanted synced with the database at the back end, and when the network was available, the two would automatically sync with one another, recovering should the network drop. It doesn't seem that impressive on the face of it, until you realize they do all this in under 50KB! However, the reason I mention PointBase is that they were atypical of the shift in the wireless space I witnessed at JavaOne.
Developers were going to great lengths to tell me about their solutions regarding the state of the network, and the conditions their software would excel in, such as a temperamental network going up and down. This I found reassuring because I live in a rural area where reception for my mobile is not always 100%; I was beginning to worry that I may be left behind in this new always-on, always-connected, Web-serviced world!
On the whole, JavaOne was a good show with plenty of walking space between the booths (you definitely knew the bottom had fallen out of the dot-com world). I caught up with a lot of old faces, listened attentively to what they were up to, had a brush with J2EE Blueprints, and met a vast array of new faces. It was a great event, as usual.
We were there with SYS-CON Radio interviewing the latest and greatest. Keith Brown, our esteemed J2SE editor, conducted the majority of the interviews, which you can listen to online at www.sys-con.com/java/.
Until next month ...
Alan Williamson is editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal. During the day he holds the post of chief technical officer at n-ary (consulting) Ltd, one of the first companies in the UK to specialize in Java at the server side. Rumor has it he welcomes all suggestions and comments.