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Eclipse Pulsar Simplifies Mobile Development

Developing applications for multiple mobile devices is not an easy task, due to the significant differences between platforms and their respective software libraries. The Pulsar effort announced today by the open source Eclipse Foundation could address that problem.

Pulsar is an attempt to provide a common platform that will enable developers to produce applications for multiple handset vendors. It is led by Motorola and Nokia and has the official support of RIM, IBM and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.

The new effort comes as Apple's App Store raises the bar on mobile applications with more than 500 million downloads in six months and other vendors launch their own efforts to keep pace.

"Today, each handset vendor OEM provides its own tools," Dino Brusco, senior director for developer platform and services at Motorola told InternetNews.com. "It's a very fragmented world that an application developer has to deal with, and it's a fairly high cost to a developer to actually get his app available on the different handsets.

Eclipse Pulsar, when it's ready, might be the solution the problem. Brusco explained that Pulsar is a development environment based on Eclipse technology. The Eclipse Foundation is a multi vendor effort that provides developer tools and was originally focused around Java.

According to Brusco, the new capabilities of Pulsar is it is an integrated and pre-packaged development tools platform that will include support for JavaME, Web and native mobile platform application developers. The initial Pulsar release is currently scheduled for June of 2009.

The plan is for Pulsar to provide a common platform that will enable Nokia, Motorola, RIM and Sony-Erickson development.

"It is one step toward making it easier for an application developer to get into the mobile space," Brusco claimed.

He added that today there is a lot of duplication in the mobile development tooling space. With Pulsar and the coming together of some of biggest mobile handset vendors the commodity baseline development platform can be jointly developed.

Write Once. Run Anywhere?

Pulsar is not however a panacea for all that ails mobile development and it's not a write once run anywhere technology either.

Brusco explained that the Pulsar download comes with the developer environment and the mobile tools. Once inside Pulsar, the developer is able to select which vendor's software development kit (SDK) they want configured in order to target a specific platform.

Pulsar does not address the issue of the runtime operating system software that runs on the various mobile handset platforms be it Linux, Symbian or otherwise. Brusco noted that Pulsar is about the application development tools that run on top of a device's operating system.

"This is one step to help developers to write applications to the different mobile operating systems but it doesn't affect the operating systems themselves," Brusco said.

Even with JavaME itself, each of the different mobile handset vendors have their own flavors of JavaME configured, which is why Pulsar provides the vendor SDKs to target a specific platform.

"We have to deal with the cards we've been dealt," Brusco commented. "JavaME does have differences across handsets."

Brusco admitted that Pulsar is not a write once, run anywhere technology. Developers still need to select which handset they are targeting, Pulsar is intended to make it easier for a developer to target the different mobile environments. Developers will still need to write multiple versions for each specific handset they want to target for their application. However, Brusco claims that with Pulsar that will be easier to do.

It's about applications

Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson all compete against each other in the mobile marketplace for handset share, yet at Eclipse they are coming together for the common good. Brusco claimed that the need for collaboration was brought about by the need for more mobile application development.

"The industry has reached an inflection point and the emphasis is now on growing the number of mobile applications out there and driving mobile application developers to create even more compelling and connected applications," Brusco said. "The companies participating in Pulsar are interested in growing the total size of mobile application developer community."