JavaOne - Nokia sets plan for major Java push

Java's creator James Gosling, vice president and fellow at Sun Microsystems, and Nokia's president Pekka Ala-Pietilä kicked off the second day of the Java-everything event, clearly stating that they see Java as a key tool for linking many types of devices, running different operating systems and various kinds of applications.

After shooting Java shirts out of a canon on stage, Gosling reflected on how far Java has come since he began developing it in the early to mid-1990s.

"I thought if I could get 10,000 developers I would feel like Java really succeeded," he said.

Since the early stage of Java's original development, the number of developers has swelled from Gosling's original hopes of 10,000 to around 2.5 million. This influx of Java users has put a wealth of applications in the hands of companies like Nokia and Japan's NTT DoCoMo and convinced them to make every one of their phones Java-enabled in the near future.

Nokia already plans to ship 50 million Java-enabled handsets by 2002 and then double that number the following year, making the company one of the leading Java promoters and users, Ala-Pietilä said during his keynote speech.

Nokia currently sells a Java-ready cell phone in the US and will begin selling its 9210 Communicator device in Europe and Asia in about ten days. This device folds out to give users both phone and typing tools on the same product.

In the first half of 2002, Nokia will bring a similar product -- the 9290 Communicator -- to the US, Ala-Pietilä announced. Both the 9210 and 9290 run Symbian's EPOC operating system and Personal Java technology.

Nokia will then launch another set of smaller, phone-centric devices in the first quarter of 2002 that use Nokia's own mobile operating system and J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition). J2ME is a trimmed down version of Java that can fit into small devices like phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants).

Nokia plans to make a mix of products centred around different tasks users may need. Some Nokia devices may provide users with more phone-centred and browsing features, while others will be more like PDAs or handheld computers and may come packed with multimedia functions for playing songs or watching video clips, Ala-Pietilä said.

By packing more features into mobile phones and pushing their popularity, Ala-Pietilä said he expects the number of wireless devices to eclipse the number of PCs worldwide by 2002.

"In the future, I see tremendous change," Ala-Pietilä said.

Like many in the industry, Ala-Pietilä predicted mobile phone makers and carriers will work to give users more location-based services as networks around the world move to similar standards. Users will be able to travel abroad and expect to receive wireless services that are similar in quality to what they get domestically. This will open up new doors for service providers because their subscribers will more likely use wireless services more when travelling outside their home country, he said. Also, these service providers will then deliver to the devices information pertinent to individual users.

"We will move from a culture of ears to eyes," Ala-Pietilä said.

While a future of explosive content may appear on the horizon, some users at the show expect the hype around Java in the wireless space may take time to bring to fruition.

"Yes, I think Java can be great for developing for wireless," said Florence Defaix, a developer with Canada-based MSK. "The main problem is going to be standards development."

The standards issue for both networks and between devices is improving slowly but surely, Ala-Pietilä said. Users may finally be on the verge of seeing the promise of wireless technology appear in their hand, he urged.

"There are so many players in the wireless space," he said. "We have to work to make sure we all progress together."

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Ashlee Vance

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