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Sun rallies mobile faithful to simplified Java tests

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JavaOne Sun Microsystems and mobile partners are taking another stab at portability of Java applications as Apple, Google, and Research in Motion threaten to set de-facto standards.

Together with France Telecom and Orange, Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Vodafone, Sun announced the Java Application Terminal Alignment Framework (JATAF), which they promised would reduce the number of tests application developers would need to go through to ensure their applications run on different networks and handsets.

Sony Ericsson claimed to have submitted up to 60 test cases and Orange 100 test cases to JATA.

Also promised are a publisher ID digital certificate to authenticate a person and application, and R&D signing for developers to test their applications.

Unified Test Initiative chair and director of technology for the Orange partner program Martin Wrigley cited the example of one Java programmer who had to make 14,000 builds of his application to target every single operator and language.

"We don't want customers getting something that doesn't work," Wrigley said. "The increase in software stores and volume in applications coming towards us is something we have to acknowledge and evolve testing to make it relevant."

As with another initiative to reduce the work building applications to different handsets - and reduce fragmentation in mobile market - two companies are conspicuous by their absence: Google and Apple. And this time they are joined by RIM.

In March Motorola announced Pulsar, a project to provide a common Eclipse-based tooling environment for different Java Mobile Edition (Java ME) SDKs. The goal is to extend Pulsar to native and HTML mobile applications. Backing Pulsar are Nokia and Genuitec, with IBM, RIM and Sony Ericsson Mobile.

Martin said JATA targets the addressable market of some 2.6bn Java ME devices, which - collected - is larger than the market owned by the iPhone and Google's Android, neither of which use Java ME. He said it was a mistake to see mobile as one market of handsets and service providers.

The unified standard effort is the latest big push to unify around Java ME and reduce fragmentation, which stops developers easily porting their applications to different devices and networks. Java ME has become a stable for many in mobile, but that hasn't stopped handset and service providers using only the bits they want to tune and juice their apps and lock developers in against the rival service providers.

Since the creation of Java ME, we've had CLDC and MIDP in an attempt to make sense of the chaos. And now, with Google and Apple exciting developers and service providers contemplating their own online stores for mobile, it's back to Java ME - only this time with unified testing. ®

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