Mobile data services development trends in 2007

The wireless industry is evolving faster than ever and easy-to-use interfaces will allow extremely powerful data services on the network to be delivered to the handset user. In this column, Darrell Jordan-Smith takes a look at new data services architectures and development tools emerging in 2007 and the ongoing development efforts of the Java Community and others.

The wireless industry is evolving faster than ever. In 2007, the trend from fixed-to-mobile and voice-to-data will accelerate as the wireless industry moves well beyond the downloading of games, email, wallpaper and ringtones on cell phones and other handheld mobile devices.

Rich, interactive applications and services will drive the next major phase of mobile industry growth. Now that high bandwidth is readily available, the next challenge is to deliver easy usability to today's handsets.

Easy-to-use interfaces will allow extremely powerful data services on the network to be delivered to the handset user.

The resulting handheld mobile devices will rival and, in many instances, replace pre-Web 2.0 PCs because they will be more portable, readily available and customizable -- extending the user to the network in highly personalized ways.

Web 2.0 mobile application development: Not just for programmers anymore
To enable today's new breed of mobile data services developers to provide the interactive applications demanded by the mobile marketplace, mobile device APIs supporting location services, 3D imaging graphics, Bluetooth and camera functionality, as well as other powerful data services, must be combined in easy-to-use ways. Java provides APIs exposed by the Netbeans IDE that extend handset or mobile handset functionality to the deepest level, enabling creative people such as Web designers who are not software developers to easily take advantage of the creation of new data services.

The Java ME platform, already deployed on 1.5 billion Java ME phones worldwide, for example, includes flexible user interfaces, a robust security model, a broad range of built-in network protocols, and extensive support for networked and offline applications that can be downloaded dynamically. Applications based on Java ME software are portable across a wide range of devices yet leverage each device's native capabilities.

Supporting the evolution toward more powerful mobile data services, the Mobile Service Architecture (MSA) specification defines today's next-generation Java ME platform. Released in December 2006, this new platform aims to create a predictable environment for developers who build applications for mobile handsets.

A new architecture for mobile data services development
The MSA specification defines a standard set of application functionality for mobile devices while clarifying interactions among various technologies associated with the CLDC and MIDP specifications. It is defined through the Java Community Process (JCP) by an expert group of mobile device manufacturers, wireless carriers and software vendors. As its name suggests, MSA is a complete architecture for mobile services. Like its predecessor, Java Technology for the Wireless Industry (JTWI), MSA is an umbrella over a collection of familiar, updated and new APIs that cooperate to support applications with a wide range of standardized capabilities. It broadens the architecture to incorporate new technologies for high-volume mobile devices.

Now, with the establishment of the phoneME project in the Mobile & Embedded Community on Java.net, developers can download Java ME implementation source code, build it, and run applications with it. They can also make code contributions such as bug fixes and proposed enhancements for both feature phone and advanced implementations.

New data services create new Internet-based communities
An excellent example of the new wave of data services driving the trend from fixed-to-mobile and voice-to-data is loopt, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup that has built a "social mapping" service using a Java mobile client to change the way people use mobile phones to keep in touch with their friends. The company's GPS and other location technologies show users where their friends are by automatically updating maps on their mobile handsets; loopt also lets users send messages to nearby friends or receive automatic alerts when their friends are close by, giving them the opportunity to meet.

The loopt service initially is available only to Boost Mobile customers, but it will soon be expanded to other carriers. By augmenting the Boost Mobile walkie-talkie offering with a GPS locator service, loopt is extending Web 2.0 to support and sustain virtual communities with a powerful new combination of communications capabilities.

Interactive mobile application capabilities such as these represent the early-stage success of the new data services architectures and development tools emerging in 2007, and the ongoing development efforts of the Java Community and others.

About the contributor: Darrell Jordan-Smith is vice president of Sun's Communication Industry Group. Since taking this position, Darrell has spearheaded and defined a worldwide sales strategy to successfully grow Sun's telecommunications business. Upon joining Sun in 2000, Darrell established and led the key telecoms global account teams and built business relationships with Sun's largest global accounts. He successfully repositioned Sun as a key technology partner of the world's leading and largest telecom firms. Along the way, he developed a reputation for innovative business development practices anchored by a determined focus on customers' key business to increase ARPU, drive down cost, and realize a full return on every IT investment.

About Sun Microsystems: Since 1982, Sun Microsystems has brought together the world's brightest technical minds to solve the world's biggest technical problems. Our vision of "Everyone and everything participating on the network" means that when people are networked, they share, interact, and solve problems. A singular vision -- "The Network Is The Computer"(TM) -- guides Sun in the development of technologies that power the world's most important markets.

Sun's philosophy of sharing innovation and building communities is at the forefront of the next wave of computing: The Participation Age.

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