When I recently read PMN’s article “Java = mass market“, I had to ask myself why client Java would be the instrument of mass market adoption for mobile. I agree Java has a place in mobile, but I don’t perceive it will become the end-all, be-all that so many think. It’s not because it isn’t cool – there are many things Java does to make for a great end-user experience. It’s also a defacto standard on the server too. But I think we should be looking at history, standards, and availability before we all bend down and pray to the Client Java Gods.
Back when Sun released Java to the desktop world, many rushed to say that Java would become the new UI in the browser because it created a richer experience. Enter Microsoft: they promulgated the same thing, and insisted their installed VB base could leverage their programs as ActiveX objects into the browser environment… “and create a richer experience.”
Now with mobile, operators and developers are jumping to the same conclusions: Java will save the world and create a richer experience for mobile users, thus creating more demand and data consumption. Guess who’s soon about to leverage their desktop base into mobile? Microsoft. Will all the Java apps be compatible with Windows Mobile? Probably not. Will all of Microsoft’s developers be singing .NET’s praises–to only work on that OS? Probably not. Sounds a lot like 10 years ago, doesn’t it.
What we got out of the early Sun/Microsoft situation was the proliferation of a “networked-based computing model” delivered via HTML mark-up. Everyone realized they could get a broader audience if they used a common delivery standard and put the heavy-processing tasks on the server in the developer’s language of choice. Companies like Yahoo! came about to create simple, integrated consumer applications in HTML – and all bets were off for Client Anything. (As an example, if you want driving directions… you don’t “download an app” to your desktop and hope that it’s compatible with your computer! This is equivalent to the current operator model.)
Then came Flash. And with a relatively simple authoring schema geared toward average website developers and graphic artists–and with an installed base on practically every browser thereafter – the penetration of this technology today is quite staggering. This makes both Sun’s and Microsoft’s attempts at creating a rich, client interactivity standard look pitiful.
So, with a clear standard for delivery (HTML), and with a clear standard for rich interaction (Flash)… why are operators and developers jumping for joy over client Java? Any zealot will stand up and provide a clear reason as to why Sun or Microsoft has this “all figured out.” But correct me if I’m wrong–aren’t people still struggling with the whole “develop once, run anywhere” (DORA) theory–with both platforms? On all devices?
By my estimation, there is only one DORA standard and it’s HTML (now XHTML). Even if the environment is “mobile”…. with all the marketing and branding that companies have poured into their existing desktop sites and applications, it seems completely counter-intuitive to go against this base. Again, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for Java in mobile. But with Flash Lite becoming more prevalent, I think it’ll only be a matter of time before the same army of average website developers and graphic artists port their creations over as well.
About the Author
Kevin Perkins is the godfather of Greenlight’s Skweezer® technology (http://www.skweezer.net/) that optimizes webpages, email, and searches for mobile devices. As a portal with an integrated RSS reader, translation, Favorites, Contacts, click-to-call, and more… Skweezer is an excellent way to consume mobile data on a day-to-day basis.