Sun seeks to build world's biggest App Store around Java

Sun will vet Java apps and check them for safety and content, and will charge for distribution

Sun Microsystems plans to launch an App Store that could make Apple's look smaller than a 7-Eleven by comparison.

The server vendor hopes to increase sales and drive more business via the Java App Store, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote on his blog Monday.

Sun is in the process of being acquired by Oracle, which has expressed a strong interest in Sun's Java technology.

An app store based on Sun's Java programming language has potential because millions of software developers already create applications with Java, which has been out since the mid-1990s.

Sun estimates Java-based software applications are already in use on over 4.5 billion computers, mobile phones and other gadgets, giving Java a huge potential market.

Schwartz indicated the app store will focus on PC users and estimated the size of the community at 1 billion.

Apple's App Store, by comparison, has already seen over a billion software downloads, despite there only being around 21 million iPhones out there, according to the company's quarterly earnings reports.

The disparity in numbers shows Java's possibilities. But if the scant attention Schwartz's app store blog post has received since it went up on Monday is any indication, Sun may be hard-pressed to mimic Apple's success.

Past deals with Google and Microsoft convinced Sun a Java App Store has potential.

In 2005, Sun agreed to distribute Google's browser toolbar alongside its popular Java Runtime Environment, the software that allows Java applications to run on Windows PCs.

The Google toolbar sits atop just about any Web browser so people can type in a search there instead of going to Google's Web site. It was offered to PC users as an optional download via the Java Runtime's automatic update mechanism.

The toolbars turned out to be a significant driver of search traffic, Schwartz said, and the update mechanism proved to be a strong distribution tool.

The second year with Google, the fee the search giant paid Sun "increased dramatically," Schwartz said.

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft outbid Google for a U.S.-only distribution deal with Sun for its MSN toolbar.

"The revenues to Sun were also getting big enough for us to think about building a more formal business around Java's distribution power - to make it available to the entire Java community, not simply one or two search companies on yearly contracts," Schwartz said.

That's what the company's Java App Store, currently codenamed Project Vector, is designed to deliver.

Wilvin Chee, head of software research at IDC in the Asia Pacific, said a Java App Store holds great potential because it will bring together Java software developers and users at a one-stop-shop.

Such a store will make Java applications easier to find and ultimately lead to the development of a more Java applications, he said.

Sun plans to allow Java application developers to submit programs to a simple Web site so the company can evaluate them for safety and content before presenting them to the Java audience. Sun will charge for distribution.

The company plans to reveal more details about the Java App Store at its JavaOne conference, which opens June 2 in San Francisco, Schwartz said.

Java is a software programming language Sun developed to make the Internet and Web browsers more interactive, such as to play online games, chat with people anywhere, calculate your mortgage interest, view images in 3D and more.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
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