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Motorola Offers Open Source Mobile Phone Framework

Open source mania continues. Motorola is the latest corporate giant to wade into the pool by offering its mobile Java technology to the open source community.

Motorola will release the framework and sample test cases for the Mobile Information Device Profiles (MIDP) 3.0 specification as a freely available download. The company has set up a site to host the framework and sample test cases.

By making the frameworks and test cases available via an open source project, Motorola said it wants to encourage development of Java-based mobile phone software, which is difficult to do because the platform is so fragmented, particularly in the area of testing frameworks.

"Right now, every handset manufacturer has their own test harness. There is no way to run a consistent test and we have thousands of tests on dozens of harnesses," said Mark VandenBrink, senior director and chief architect for Motorola Mobile Devices. "We're offering test cases to it so there's one unified test harness to make sure that [applications] interoperate."

MIDP itself isn't a major cost issue for licensees, it’s the test harnesses, which do not come from Sun. Sun only licenses the Java mobile framework but not a testing mechanism, resulting in incompatibilities between MIDP applications simply because they were tested on different MIDP-based applications.

The problems, said VandenBrink, aren't universal incompatibilities but minor gotchas around the edge of the core Java Mobile platform. It's the little changes around the edge of Java that make it difficult to write an application in MIDP that works on both a Motorola and Nokia phone, he said.

Stephen O'Grady, senior analyst with analyst firm RedMonk, told internetnews.com he's interested in seeing what developers make of Motorola's decision.

"While there are open source operating systems available for mobile devices, and there are open source application frameworks, the mobile device as a platform is still more closed than its PC or server brethren," he said. "Will this encourage greater adoption of J2ME more broadly? Tough to say. But I'm certainly interested in seeing what developers make of it."