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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sun Microsystems Inc will attack Microsoft .NET on mobile devices - a mushrooming area of application development - with a streamlined, fully-featured version of Java for carriers and customers to share XML-based web services.

Palo Alto, California-based Sun opened its seventh annual JavaOne conference yesterday announcing two APIs that parse data and support RPC communications.

The APIs will plug-into Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) - for wireless devices - and provide a basic level of support for XML web service protocols.

Executives also unveiled Project Matey, to increase J2ME's performance by a factor of 10. Sun believes speedier performance will assist developers producing rich mobile applications and complex web services, while reducing devices' power consumption.

The announcement finally takes Sun's ONE program for web services off the server and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). J2EE 1.3, completed in November 2001, introduced support for web services to server-side Java with the Java API for XML Processing (JAXP). That Java speciation, though, lacks native support for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) as will J2ME - even with the new APIs.

Sun also opened JavaOne in San Francisco, California, attacking Microsoft and .NET in other areas. Rich Green, Sun vice president and general manager of Java and XML, used his opening keynote speech to focus on support for Java in Windows. Green said delegates should lobby OEMs to support Sun's Java Virtual Machine (JVM) for Windows XP, Microsoft's newest desktop operating system.

Green raised, too, the stand-off between Microsoft and an alliance of vendors and customers over secure access to web services - the Liberty Alliance Project. Microsoft plans a federated version of its Passport service, but opponents believe this potentially enables Microsoft to search and use sensitive customer data.

Microsoft's current version of Passport is based on a maximum 13 fields of data. Green, though, suggested Microsoft would be forced to expand this data intake so it could offer more sophisticated services in coming years. He called the current system "limited".

"It's a good thing this event isn't held overseas because you know how much I hate to travel with a Passport," Green joked.

In contrast, Green sought to enthuse JavaOne delegates over the popularity of Java. He quoted ARC Group figures that predict 400 million Java clients by 2003, and Evans Data which said Java is "the most frequently used programming language in the world" with 56% use. Green said three million developers use and contribute to Java technology.

In the mobile field, Sun claimed 75 million handsets based on Java technology will be shipped this year, while 10 carriers and 15 handset manufacturers world wide are writing services based on Java. Yesterday's J2ME announcements are designed to capitalize on Java's popularity in the mobile space, and deliver an alternative to Microsoft's relatively unproven .NET Compact Framework.

Sun believes a faster, XML-savvy J2ME will have greater appeal than the .NET compact framework. Executives told a JavaOne press conference J2ME would attract developers because of the vast number of applications for Java - numbers lacking for mobile .NET. Green said: "This is an exploding population with developers with their software shipping. This is not a strategy."

Executives were unclear about exact performance figures but said implementations would vary according to how much code runs on a device and how much remains on the server. John Gage, chief researcher and director, science officer, said performance would as much be down to advances in cell phone, network and central processor technology as improvements to J2ME.

"Concurrency, migration of code, latency, identity, these issues are at the heart of computer science. Web services is part of a frothy debate. This is the serious application of all the technology we have been building for 40 years," he said.

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