Hello everyone. I'm Glen, the new kid at the helm of the J2ME section. I'll start by thanking Jason and Alan for the opportunity to expostulate in these hallowed pages. Like many Java developers I find JDJ an indispensable resource in my everyday work: its code and technical enlightenment have often saved me time and work, so I'm pleased to be associated with the magazine.
I'm particularly gratified to be involved with the J2ME section, because J2ME has been the most interesting and exciting technology I've worked with in awhile. I still work frequently with and enjoy J2EE, but J2EE has been around long enough to acquire a middle-age maturity, polish, and sophistication, while J2ME has the brashness and enthusiasm of a youngster. It's especially interesting to be part of the early years of a technology, when you can see its promise, grapple with some of the fundamental issues, and see that technology unfold.
And unfold it does. In January the JSR-185 expert group released the first official version of the Java Technology for the Wireless Industry (JTWI) roadmap, which lays out a time line for how the Java mobile phone platform will evolve as additional JSRs are released. One concern in the J2ME scene has been the possible fragmentation of the mobile phone platform as the result of OEMs adding proprietary APIs to provide functionality, such as HTTPS and multimedia, that was not specified in the MIDP 1.0 and related J2ME specifications. Much of this functionality is now being addressed by various JSRs (MIDP 2.0 mandates HTTPS, JSR-135 defines mobile media APIs), and the roadmap provides a near-term time line for the availability of these specifications so that developers and manufacturers can better plan their activities. It also promotes an "architecturally coherent" (to quote from the JSR) platform, which I can't believe anyone would think is a bad thing.
However, there's one thing about the JSR that annoys me, and so provides the opportunity for my first rant in these pages. The JSR contains yet another tongue-twisting acronym, JTWI. In his editorial last month (Vol. 8, issue 3), Jason talked about the "lack of brand awareness among the nontechnical public" re J2ME, and I think Sun's fondness for acronyms and the inability to come up with a user-friendly moniker for this technology is evidence of a critical blind spot. Sun has an engineering mentality and develops great technologies, but doesn't, from my viewpoint, appear all that strong in marketing.
Now engineering requires rational and analytical thinking, so we engineers (and apparently Sun) would like to think that if you simply build a better mousetrap, the world will recognize it as such and beat a path to your door. Unfortunately, the world doesn't work like that. Many people don't think analytically - if they did, do you think they'd be phoning psychics for life guidance? The better technology, and the better company, doesn't always win.
I think that the big stakeholders in J2ME - not just Sun, but also the handset and PDA manufacturers and other critical partners - need to come up with a better marketing approach for J2ME. Start with a catchy name and, if at all possible, some appealing graphic image that everyday folks can recognize and associate with the technology, even if they don't understand the technology itself.
As an example, look at Wi-Fi. A few years ago whenever I'd discuss 802.11b I was afraid the person I was talking to would get bored and walk away before I finished saying all those syllables. Now everybody says Wi-Fi, and nontechies ask for Wi-Fi at the local consumer electronics-R-us store. They may not know what it is exactly, but they know it's what they need to wireless-enable their home or small business network.
Wi-Fi can also serve as a model from another angle. The Wi-Fi Alliance (www.weca.net), comprised of 207 companies, has been instrumental in the success of Wi-Fi through their standards, certification, and marketing efforts. A similar effort on behalf of J2ME could help ensure the market success of the technology.
That's it for my first time on the soapbox. Thanks for your time, and so long until next month.
Glen Cordrey is a software architect working in the Washington, DC, area. He's been using Java for five years, developing both J2EE and J2ME applications for commercial customers.