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Sun succumbs to Apple envy with Java Store push

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JavaOne Sun Microsystems' outgoing chief executive Jonathan Schwartz has opened his swansong JavaOne with a parting challenge to Apple's success on mobile.

Almost a year after Apple launched the App Store, Sun has unveiled an online shop and warehouse for posting, selling, and downloading apps built in Java and JavaFX - the company's RIA play.

Introduced by Schwartz, Verizon announced it will also roll out its own store for mobile apps built using Java. Verizon's network has been notoriously closed to third-party applications, but the growing market share of Apple's iPhone and the popularly of Apple's App Store appears to have changed all that.

The iPhone is only available in the US on the network of Verizon rival AT&T. But it's an agreement that's coming to an end in a move that could prove disruptive enough to give AT&T's rivals a fresh crack at the market.

Verizon's store won't use JavaFX,, and it will rely instead on the carrier's favorite - Java Mobile Edition (Java ME). Sun is pushing JavaFX to build apps and interfaces for mobile, PCs, and TVs. Early apps in the Java Store include a Twitter client built in JavaFX.

Lowell McAdam, Verizon's president and chief executive, explained the delay to accepting third-party applications by telling JavaOne the company had been over-protective of its brand and had been building out the network, with the addition of features such as parental controls.

"We've decided to open up our network elements," Lowell said. He said applications would be able to link to device capabilities and network features such as presence. Verizon plans an open developer conference in Silicon Valley on July 27, but the exact location was not given.

Sun is the latest company to succumb to Apple envy, following news that Microsoft is planning a store for Windows-powered mobile devices. Apple has denied access to the iPhone for JavaFX, and Schwartz used his keynote to claim that Java is already available on one of the world's most popular handsets - Research In Motion's BlackBerry - among 2.6m mobile devices.

Appearing with Schwartz, Java father James Gosling said Sun was ready to unveil a preview a year ago but "thought better of it".

Sun is optimistically pitching the JavaStore as a central repository for Java and JavaFX applications for consumer-facing applications. It'll handle developer registration, application submission, content management, provisioning, and transaction settlement.

But a year on, much work remains to be done on the store, and it's unclear whether Sun can hit its planed US roll-out of "this year" and worldwide launch in 2010, especially with Oracle's proposed acquisition hanging over its head and the resulting uncertainty that will create.

Fundamentals such as application submission criteria and payment mechanisms are still being decided and will be based on feedback in the beta process.

Java Store is only available as a public beta to those who sign up, and there was no word from Sun who could participate. Apps must be compatible with Windows XP SP3, Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise and OS X 10.5.

"We need your feedback," Gosling said. ®

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