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Motorola offers new phone gear for Java junkies

Owners of Motorola phones equipped with Java soon will be able to read secure Web pages, control robots and search databases.

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Owners of Motorola phones equipped with Java soon will be able to read secure Web pages, control robots and search databases.

Motorola announced the new features at the JavaOne Conference that began Monday in San Francisco. Nearly 20,000 Java programmers and developers are expected to attend this week's conference, which has taken on a decidedly wireless flavor.

Java, a software language that lets the same program run on any device, has recently become popular in the wireless industry. There are more than 3 million Java-enabled handsets on the market. Three carriers, NTT DoCoMo in Japan, LG Telecom in Korea, and Nextel Communications in the United States, offer service for the phones.

Sun Microsystems, which created the Java language, believes there will be 20 million Java cell phones in use by the end of this year. Carriers, including Sprint PCS and Cingular in the United States; KDDI in Japan; and Vodafone in Europe, all have plans to start selling, or start trials, with Java phones, according to Sun.

Motorola is deeply tied to Java. In April 2000, Nextel became the first carrier in the United States to sell phones embedded with the software language. The phones, built by Motorola, are capable of acting as a calculator and allow consumers to play a Sega game.

On Monday, Motorola added more functions into the mix of offerings for Nextel customers. The applications are aimed at people using their Java phones for business purposes. But the new features most likely won't send the average consumer into a frenzy for Java-enabled phones, said Paul Dittner, an analyst at Dataquest.

Motorola has chosen to start small, with a few specific applications aimed directly at a particular market rather than unleashing hundreds of software programs and letting the consumer dine at the Java buffet, Dittner said.

He thinks it's a smart move for Motorola and other carriers hoping to start making money by letting consumers download software onto their phones, which the Java phones can do.

Motorola's i85s "The question is, do you jump onto the market with a variety of applications, make mistakes, deal with virtually no handset availability and limited network speeds, or do you start small and learn along the way to prepare yourself for the larger consumer market?" Dittner said. "Clearly, this is kind of setting a foundation for applications of the future."

Motorola's new Java applications let consumers access Web sites using the Secure Socket Layer Internet security standard. This form of security is used by companies such as Web portals to protect customers of Web-based e-mail services.

Motorola is also demonstrating a new color browser on the i85s, one of the two Java-enabled handsets.

Cell phone customers can also download a database onto their phones, then fill it with the information they need, according to Motorola. PointBase, a Java application maker based in California, developed the software.

Motorola also developed a way for law enforcement officers to use Java-enabled wireless devices to conduct record checks of license plates, serial numbers or driver's licenses while away from their squad cars.

"These enhancements reinforce Motorola's and Nextel's joint commitment to providing developers with leading-edge tools for developing applications that address the needs of business customers," Bill Werner, corporate vice president of Motorola, said in a statement. "Together, Motorola and Nextel are offering developers the opportunity to take advantage of more advanced technology and functionality in creating innovative applications."