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September 17, 2002
Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) says it is talking to other handset vendors about creating a more standardized version of mobile Java (J2ME) for application developers currently struggling to cater for the many different Java handsets on the market.
As Unstrung reported recently how vendor and operator proprietary extensions to the cut-down Java standard have busted the credo of the "write once, run anywhere" specification (see Write Once, Run Nowhere?). "It's fair to say that the various [mobile] Java implementations are all a little bit different," says Mike Bordelon, corporate vice president and general manager with Motorola’s Personal Communications Sector. "It would be nice if there were some core sets [for developers]."
Motorola says that in addition to handset manufacturers, standards bodies such as the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) are also working to make life easier for mobile Java developers (see Hey, Hey! We're the OMA!).
However, Bordelon doubts that handset vendors and carriers will be able to resist tweaking the standard just a little if it gives them a new feature their rivals don't have.
Talks about standardization are only part of Motorola's renewed focus on mobile Java. On Monday the firm announced plans to acquire Java developer 4thpass Inc. for an undisclosed sum (see Motorola Acquires 4thpass). Motorola already held a stake in 4thpass and says the acquisition should be completed within a few days.
Motorola wants 4thpass for its Mobile Application System (MAS) technology. This code acts, in part, as a "wrapper" for downloadable Java applets, enabling over-the-air provisioning and more sophisticated billing options.
"It’s a way to put hooks in an application, so you can tell what it's doing," says Bordelon.
Using such a system, carriers can tell when a specific application "touches the network" or precisely measure the time of a download, which gives carriers the option to bill for the time online or megabytes downloaded.
Telefónica Móviles SA is among the carriers that already use the 4thpass system. Bordelon says five or six unnamed users will be officially announced soon.
Bordelon expects the first products from Motorola using the 4thpass technology within three months.
The communications giant isn't finished with its Java plans yet, though. "We are stepping up our focus on generating third-party applications," says Bordelon, as well as developing "signature applications" in-house, such as wireless instant messaging and location-based programs.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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