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SlowCoMo launches Java phones

Sony console tie-in to follow

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The first mass market Java phones will finally launch on Saturday in Japan. NTT DoCoMo's i503 iMode handsets will cost between ¥20,000 ($170.40) and ¥30,000 ($255.60).

It's a landmark of sorts, representing as it does a new, open-ish mobile Internet platform, and it will be particularly closely watched outside Japan now that DoCoMo has taken steps into the US market with AT&T.

But as we noted last fall, it's Java but probably not Java as most of us know it. The variant is KJava, which is modest indeed, and specifically limited to use only one thread per applet, 10KB of memory and 5KB of scratch. That, we've since heard, is a limitation imposed by SlowCoMo itself to avoid network congestion.

DoCoMo will launch accompanying services beginning with what it calls "i appli" - a service that will allow cache applets on the handset. Doubtless a service for classics students - i claudius - is in the pipeline.

Being a vertical giant, DoCoMo can get away with things like a separate subscription service for access to your own device. (Now what were writing about pay-per-write hard disks only recently?)

But far more intriguing commercial and leisure services are in the works. Sony has been working on a mechanism to display the handset information on a TV via a PlayStation console: a dry run for the more involved role for the PlayStation 3 as a "digital hub". We'd be amazed if the Microsoft Xbox team, which has designed a pure play, no compromise games box, hasn't already received one of those pissy emails from billg... ®

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