Experts Talk About New MSA Standard, Give Update on The Latest Mobile Java Platform
The panel was hosted by Onno Kluyt, senior director of the JCP program at Sun Microsystems and Chair of the JCP. Onno kicked off the event by characterizing the new standard as a "major two-year undertaking" that completed at the end of 2006. JSR 248 was spearheaded by co-Spec Leads Nokia and Vodafone. They were assisted by an Expert Group consisting of twelve additional companies, including BEA, BenQ, Cingular Wireless, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Orange France, RIM, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Sun Microsystems, and T-Mobile International. Present at the event were representatives from Orange, Sony Ericsson, Sun, and Jean-Marie Dautelle, individual developer and member of the ME Executive Committee.
This event was the first opportunity after the completion of JSR 248, MSA, to engage in a dialogue with Java ME experts who developed the standard and are already involved in the development of the next mobile architecture. During the evening, press and analysts were informed about the latest updates on the Mobile Java platform and invited to ask questions of the panel. The panelists discussed the significance of the MSA standard in how it simplifies the Java ME technology landscape and makes it much easier to develop for mobile handsets.
"Developers don't really care about millions of device details," said panelist Cuihtlauac Alvarado, Orange, ME Executive Committee representative and MSA Expert Group member. "They just want to be able to understand things and minimize the complexity of the applications. That's why they need a platform that behaves the same, with the same characteristics, as universally as possible. It's taken almost two years just to collect all the devices in all the areas that might potentially implement MSA, a complex task."
As panelist Jeff Griffin of Sony Ericsson explained it, JSR 248, MSA, is unusual in that it is an "umbrella" platform encompassing a collection of mandatory and optional Java specifications. These specifications can be mixed and matched to address the requirements of any given mobile device that conforms primarily to the Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) specification, but can also be implemented in the Connected Device Configuration (CDC) environment. While there are numerous specifications to choose from under the umbrella JSR, developers will appreciate the efficiency of having only one Reference Implementation (prototype) to understand and only one Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) to assure that implementations are MSA-compliant.
The MSA Expert Group members on the panel explained the capabilities of MSA, how it contributes to the reduction of fragmentation, and how it provides a path for future progress. The press wondered about the lag time between releases of MSA, noting the potential for renewed fragmentation in the industry as creative innovation speeds ahead. To that point, Onno observed that innovation and standardization are both necessary, and that a time differential may be a small price to pay for the resulting benefits. He said, "Innovation doesn't happen on a uniform scale; it goes in fits and starts. With a standard, I think it's very important that it is allowed to work at its own time line so there is sufficient consensus in the industry of the standard that is to be adopted. Innovation and standards may go along in the same direction, but not necessarily at the same speed."
The panelists also set expectations regarding the mobile market's move to MSA-compliant handsets in the future, suggesting that products would begin rolling out from various vendors over the next six to twelve months. "Our users want to customize phones with applications, not just pictures and ring tones, and Java is the best option available today to let users select from a variety of content," said Jeff Griffin. "There are more than a billion phones out there with Java on them today. And there are lots and lots of developers who are trained to use it. This adds value to our platform in a way that makes it more flexible and more useful to our users. Sony Ericsson sees MSA as critical in the next phase of making Java more relevant and more useful than before."
The individual options specified under MSA are supremely cool from a user's perspective. Who wouldn't want video or GPS capability on their mobile phone, for example? However, panelist Calinel Pasteanu, Sun, ME Executive Committee representative and MSA Expert Group member, prefers to look at the impact of MSA on the broader landscape. He said, "We talk about killer apps, and which of the JSRs under the MSA umbrella might be a killer app. Why are we not also talking about killer platforms? MSA is a killer platform in the sense that it is homogeneous through all devices, vendor-independent."
Clearly, MSA is the way of the mobile future, and the Expert Group is already hard at work on the next version of the platform, JSR 249, MSA Advanced. The benefits of MSA are tremendous for developers, manufacturers, operators, enterprises, and consumers alike.
For more information about JSR 248, MSA, go to http://jcp.org/en/jsr/detail?id=248.
For an overview of the JCP program, visit http://jcp.org/en/introduction/overview.