Sun Extends JavaFX to Mobile Platforms

Sun Microsystems today launched the JavaFX Mobile platform, expanding its
rich Internet application platform from the desktop to mobile devices, and bringing with it the promise of greater portability of Java applications between platforms.

JavaFX Mobile, which makes its formal debut next week during GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, won’t replace Java ME, the Micro Edition for smartphones, mobile phones and other handheld devices.

Instead, it expands on it, calling Java ME APIs and preserving existing Java ME apps while also providing a library for new JavaFX applications.

Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) also announced its first batch of customers, ranging from handset providers Sony Ericsson and LG Electronics to mobile providers Sprint in the U.S. and Orange in Europe. The client lists also includes software vendors Synergy and Mobi.TV.

By using the Java ME platform, developers can use JavaFX Mobile to extend their current Java ME mobile applications, games and solutions with JavaFX’s richer visual features and functionality. The JavaFX software developer kit (SDK) has been upgraded to support Mobile development, so developers use the same toolkit for building both desktop and mobile apps.

The JavaFX SDK gets three new pieces of functionality: a mobile emulator developers can run to test their apps; the ability for JavaFX to access the Java ME APIs; and an extension to the production suite, which allows designers to work with developers to ensure graphical assets work on mobile devices.

Sun did its best to preserve apps between desktop and mobile, according to Param Singh, senior director for Java marketing. The company said it is trying to maximize reuse with the common API between desktop and mobile and also support for graphics in multiple formats, the app will pull appropriate images for desktop and mobile.

“If app on the desktop was made like a widget, then that will run largely unchanged and adapt it for input,” he told “A common API means consistency. You couldn’t do that before — write a desktop app in Java using Swing and take it over to ME.”

But, he added, “by no means are we saying ‘write an app once and it runs unchanged everywhere.’ There are [user interface] element changes: The thumbnails or graphics used need to be optimized for the device.”

OEMs and mobile phone network operators have the choice of either delivering the JavaFX Mobile runtime as an embedded application on the device or delivering it over the air, Singh said.

Singh suggested that Sun has its answer to Apple’s hugely successful App Store for the iPhone in the works — its own application store, enabling developers to sell Java apps in a similarly simple way.

The possibilities may be enticing: Since its launch last year, more than 500 million apps have been downloaded from Apple App Store. However, Singh remained mum on many of the details.

“The approach you’ll see us taking in ’09 is we’re going to help build the ecosystem,” Singh said. “The truth of the matter is ME has thousands of apps for a variety of platforms, but there hasn’t been a great distribution mechanism for [independent software vendors] to get their apps out. So we’re committed to work with our OEMs and operators.”

He declined to go into further detail — for the time being.

“Talk to us at JavaOne,” he said, referring to the annual Java developer conference that runs in June.

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