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Mining Java's developers

Sprint, RIM and Motorola intensify their hunt for Java software developers who can create new programs for wireless phones and pagers.

Sprint, Research In Motion and Motorola intensified their hunt Monday for Java software developers to create new things for wireless phones and pagers to do.

All three companies unveiled new or updated versions of "toolkits" which provide the technical detail needed so Java software creators can write programs for phones and pagers that the three companies sell.

Java is a software language that lets different types of computers or cell phones communicate with each other. The version of Java in a cell phone also lets a phone owner download different software programs over the air.

The announcements, made Monday at the JavaOne conference, highlight the importance the wireless industry is putting on Java. Carriers have spent billions of dollars expanding their networks and are looking at new ways of making money. The carriers hope to sell downloads, such as new games, to cell phone owners, and Java is the software they're using to make it possible.

Nextel Communications already sells Java phones and has scores of different programs that consumers can download for a fee. Sprint and other carriers plan to follow suit in coming months with more phones and complex programs such as multiple-player games and accessing corporate databases on the fly.

Success or failure of this Java-powered effort ultimately falls on the wireless carriers that own and manage the networks these devices work on, analysts say, as opposed to Sun Microsystems, which controls the rights to use Java.

"Carriers have most on the line because they are the ones who own the network," said IDC wireless analyst Keith Waryas. "Without the network, every device is dumb. Carriers will be the ones who really push this market."

Nextel was the first to sell Java phones in the United States. On Monday, the company said it plans to sell a color-screen Java phone, which will also be the first of its kind in the United States.

The color phone, available this summer, is made by Motorola, which released a new version of its toolkit for Java software writers on Monday.

Also on Monday, Motorola unveiled new Java cell phone software programs, including "Digital Cyclone," which sends weather conditions, a nine-hour or seven-day forecast, and notifications regarding severe weather to Motorola cell phones.

Sprint plans to sell Java phones in the next few months. The company on Monday released a wireless toolkit to prepare for the launch this summer of a faster phone network capable of downloading information at the speed of a regular dial-up Internet connection.

RIM put Java into the latest version of its BlackBerry pager, which is being sold by VoiceStream Wireless and will soon be offered by AT&T Wireless. Hutchison Telecommunications will sell the new BlackBerry in Hong Kong.

The 5810, which costs about $500, is initially being sold only to corporate customers.

VoiceStream Wireless is offering the 5810 with new service designed specifically for corporate environments using Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino. For $40 a month, customers can get voice service, unlimited e-mails and a megabyte of data to download. For another $5, consumers can get AOL Messenger or other types of text messages.