Hardware Finally Catches Up With Software at JavaOne
By Eric Lin, Wed Jun 30 01:30:00 GMT 2004

JavaOne, the conference for both desktop and mobile Java developers, is in session. I toured the show floor to see what handset manufacturers and Java developers had to say about the mobile platform.

Many of the handsets at JavaOne were production versions of phones introduced at CeBit or 3GSM, with the exception of Motorola, which introduced a number of new models. In addition to the usual pitch from each manufacturer about how easy it is to develop for their platform, the manufacturers each was touting how fast its phones are. Each company pointed out the performance boost between new models and those from just a year ago. In most cases the difference was not just noticeable, it was significant. It wasn't just the performance in the Java applications themselves (smoother graphics, faster response, etc.), it was the time it took for Java engines to start and applications to launch. A Sony Ericsson rep bragged about the new faster processor and memory in her K700.

Chips aren't the only hardware that are being optimized for applications, screens are getting bigger, sharper and brighter. Big screens are no longer just for smartphones either, each manufacturer now offers feature phones with big screens too. Big screens are great for game play, but they're good for data applications too -- users can see more at once instead of navigating through a number of small screens.

The hardware improvements in chips, screens, and also keypads in the phones manufacturers are demoing don't improve the experience for the developers so much as they enhance the user experience. What the users finally see in this generation of handsets is the promise of java Applications launch quickly, run smoothly, and look good. Java hasn't changed in the past year, the hardware it's running on has. It's as though Moore's law finally caught up to the needs of feature phones -- delivering inexpensive, powerful chips to affordable handsets.

Although manufacturers are delivering users the Java phones and experience they want, they still are falling short with developers. Taken individually, each company's pitch about how great their Java implementation sounds appealing to developers. But developers are still frustrated by differences between manufacturers' Java engines. Along with pitching their speed and implementations, manufacturers and carriers as well as third party vendors are all at JavaOne pitching compatibility testing. While testing and new cross-platform development environments assure developers an application will work on a number of handsets (eventually), this is still a sore spot.

Now that manufacturers are able to provide users the Java experience they want, it's time they turn their attention to developers. As news of an improved Java experience catches on, carriers, developers and users will all benefit from a large library of applications to run on these new handsets.