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WAP to Support Java

In the time since Phone.com completed its merger with Software.com, a lot has been expected of Openwave Systems Inc. But investors have watched its stock languish and suffer perhaps in part due to the negative sentiment currently plaguing Openwave's wired brethren.

The company that banks its future on Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) has taken several steps to proliferate the open-source standard for wireless Internet communications. Yet, Openwave's shares (which at one time was over $200 apiece) have still taken the downward spiral route from the $60 range to below $40 in the past week.

Still, some analysts see the silver lining in the clouds, particularly when it comes to the communications infrastructure specialist's new deal with Sun Microsystems Inc. to give the mobile Internet market a boost.

Specifically, the two firms Thursday inked a deal to help each other roll out wireless Web solutions and corresponding products that was announced at the 3GSM conference in Cannes, France. Aspects of the arrangement will include Web-based e-mail, microbrowser applications and software development kits.

Where Openwave should really get a lift is from the number of developers that may write wireless code, but what really has Goldman Sachs analysts pumped is the potential of Java to work with the much-maligned WAP standard. Java is a flexible software platform created by Sun Microsystems that works on a variety of computers, programming environments and devices. Check that -- Java is actually a triumvirate consisting of three platforms; one for desktop applications, server applications and mobile gadgets.

The finest fruit between Openwave and Sun, according to a Goldman Sachs analyst report published Friday, may ripen between WAP and J2ME (mobile edition of Java), which are complementary platforms. Both may be standardized across mobile devices, wireless networks, and can be built on any wireless operating system including Windows CE, Palm OS, and EPOC. WAP offers device recognition and content transformation while J2ME can enhance WAP platform by providing more functionality for security and gaming.

J2ME will also make it easier to eventually deliver animated graphics and dynamic content like stock quotes. Considering that Openwave just launched a graphics-friendly browser, the parallels between Sun's and Openwave's technologies seem obvious.

Also, J2ME has received a nice comfort level of support from the development community, too, as the blooming mobile Internet sector provides its with a chance to standardize the complexity of the various wireless devices and OSs. To be sure, the Nokia's, NTT Docomo's and Research in Motion's of this world have embraced it.

How effective will J2ME be?

Dirk Coburn, director of Java and XML for e-business at research firm IDC, weighed in on the flexible software with InternetNews.com Friday.

"The wireless application world will place a heightened priority on ease of porting and on run-time interoperability across a heterogeneous domain of devices," Coburn. "This imperative will ensure J2ME an important place as a development and deployment environment for wireless automation."

Coburn said some of the knocks against WAP may be alleviated through a pairing with Java.

"Many observe that the standard lacks the full environmental definition of HTTP," Coburn said. "Also, the low functional flexibility of WAP is perhaps the primary cause of complaints about Web content that is sometimes inappropriately shoe-horned onto a wireless display. Enhancing WAP with J2ME opens solution paths to both of these problems."

As with anything else in the New Economy, J2ME is not without competition. Lurking on the horizon is Microsoft's software-as-a-service platform.

Regarding the challenge from Microsoft, Cobur