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Sun inks new deals with old partners

Moves shore up Sun's dominance in market for supplying handset makers and cell phone operators with download software.

Sun Microsystems on Monday plans to announce new deals with old partners that are also major cell phone industry players.

To a large degree, the moves shore up Sun's dominance of the market supplying handset makers and cell phone operators with download software for selling ring tones, games, screen wallpapers, and other downloads.

Ericsson and Sun, longtime partners, plan to announce Monday at the 2005 JavaOne Conference in San Francisco that they are working together to create cell phones that can do more than one task at a time. The multi-tasking features is expected to be available by the end of the year. The multi-tasking technology is based on Sun's Connected Limited Device Configuration HotSpot Implementation.

"The results (are) an important step in the evolution of Java," Ericsson Vice President Jorgen Lantto said in a statement.

Most of today's handhelds perform one task at a time, such as looking up a calendar item, finding the contact's information in another listing and then dialing out. But a growing number now have enough processing prowess and memory to compress the three steps into something like one-tap dialing from a contact list.

Sun also plans to announce Monday that electronics maker Toshiba will use the same Connected Limited Device Configuration HotSpot Implementation in handsets it is building for Vodafone, the world's largest mobile operator.

Sun has also extended its relationship with Japanese cell phone operator NTT DoCoMo, which has 50 million-plus data-loving cell phone subscribers. Together the two companies are working on the "Star Project," a networking platform that NTT DoCoMo plans to administer on its next generations of cell phones services.

Meanwhile, England's ARM Holdings is expected to unveil at the conference new chip technology to accelerate Java in mobile devices. The Jazelle RCT (run-time compiler technology) essentially will aim to improve how Java runs on cell phones, set-top boxes or other devices with a Jazelle-enhanced ARM chip. Video applications will be able to churn more frames per second, for instance, and power and memory consumption will be reduced.

The first chips to contain Jazelle RCT will be the ARM Cortex-A processors.

Unlike the PC industry, cell phone manufacturers take a somewhat gradual approach to processor changes. A substantial number of phones still use chips based on the ARM 7 core, which predates Jazelle. The first Jazelle cell phones came out in 2003, two years after the chip was introduced. Still, 50 chipmakers have licensed Jazelle and it is shipping in cell phones in Japan and Europe, said Chris Porthouse, execution environments program manager for ARM.

"You are going to see Java used for a lot more than for gaming," Porthouse said.