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It's just as well I'm not a gambler. After pessimistically deciding that it would be a clichéd "cold day in hell" before I saw a Java-enabled phone arrive on these shores, our local Vodafone launched the excellent Nokia 7650. Color and Java, no less. Of course, certain international readers will now be yawning because they've had Java phones for a while, and color for a proverbial age. If you happen to be reading this in Japan, you're probably wondering what the fuss is all about.

Trying to get an evaluation 7650 out of Nokia is about as easy as removing a sore tooth from a wide-awake Siberian tiger just as a veterinarian pokes a cold rectal probe in a sensitive area. Actually, no, scratch that. Considering the glacial lack of reaction from Nokia, perhaps a better description is trying to get served in a high-class restaurant when a movie star has just walked through the door. If you still don't understand what I mean, think about the following statement: "In space, no one can hear you scream...."

It appears that the same is true when you're trying to get the attention of a phone manufacturer.

It seems that our other major telco has decided to look into J2ME's competitor in the mobile space: BREW, with a comment, attributed to this telco's management, along the lines of "...applications can get approved by Qualcomm for a few hundred dollars."

Which is where they lost me. After looking on the Qualcomm/BREW site, the best I could come up with was about $1,150 to certify yourself as a developer and then have a minimal (in their words, Tier 1) application certified.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this cost. From one point of view, a centralized certification process means that a telco can be relatively confident that an application will not cause problems on the phones of their client base. From another point of view, Java's inherent security ­ and the limitations that have been built into the MIDP platform for that very reason ­ does remove most of the necessity for an intensive certification process and for digging rather deeply in your wallet to get your newly developed app onto phones.

My belief is that one method will tend to foster an independent and competitive developer community (as well as commercial development companies), and the other will only favor those with money to spend. I also believe that the most innovative applications are going to come out of that independent developer community. This doesn't even take into consideration the likelihood of obtaining open-source applications if developers have to dish out their hard-earned cash to get onto a phone. I'm interested in hearing what other people's opinions are in that respect.

The device market is heating up for Java-capable hardware. If you haven't yet found Java's wireless device page ( http://wireless.java.sun.com/device), it's worth taking a look. The list is already huge, and I don't believe it's complete (they're missing the Nokia 6650 to start with). Despite this ever-growing list, there's still a lack of education among the general public as to what J2ME is and why they need it on their phones. This is partly the fault of Sun and the device manufacturers in their efforts (or lack thereof) to publicize the technology in a way that is appealing to the masses.

However, they're not entirely to blame ­ perhaps the main reason is that there is still no killer app out there that's a "must have." What we need is an app that generates its own "word-of-mouth" buzz ­ it'll probably be aimed at the teenage market and, undoubtedly, will be entertainment-oriented. This is complete conjecture, but this killer application will be what finally drives any explosion of J2ME phone sales. Perhaps you're developing it right now. Let me know.

.  .  .

This month, Bill Ray investigates encryption on limited devices, and Roger Ritter looks at what you can expect from the second iteration of the MIDP specification. Roll on MIDP 3!!

Author Bio
As well as being the J2ME editor for Java Developer's Journal, Jason R. Briggs is a Java programmer and development manager for a wireless technology company, based in Auckland, New Zealand. [email protected]

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