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IBM builds Java connectivity tool

Big Blue's new program will allow developers to create applications that connect embedded devices to corporate networks via the Internet.

IBM has built a new Java tool for software developers who want to build applications for cell phones, handheld PCs, and other small devices.

The tool--called Visual Age for Embedded Systems--will allow developers to create applications that connect embedded devices, such as car navigation systems, factory robotics, and water meters, to corporate networks via the Internet.

Using this technology, a water meter, for example, would automatically report usage rates back to a city's water department. In the networked home of the future, a clock radio could be programmed to turn on the coffee maker in the morning, IBM said.

Analyst Anne Thomas, of the Patricia Seybold Group, said IBM's tool allows developers to make their applications tiny enough to fit into the embedded devices, which have a limited amount of memory.

"It takes the code developed and shrinks it down and customizes it to the specific target device," she said.

Thomas estimates there are about 20 development tools now available for embedded devices, including Wind River Systems' Tornado for Java and others that support different languages. But IBM's tool is the only one that supports team development, allowing a group of programmers to track the project and share code, she said.

Thomas believes IBM is the first major vendor that has created a development tool for the emerging embedded-systems market. The beta version was released today and is available for download here.

IBM executives said the development tool, based on IBM's VisualAge for Java, features remote debugging, testing and performance analysis tool, as well as several Java Virtual Machines (JVMs) that execute the Java code.

The new tool is also compatible with existing Java development tools, such as Visual Age for Java, Inprise's JBuilder, and Symantec's Visual Cafe, so programmers can continue to use those tools.

IBM executives said a final version of the embedded Java tool will ship this fall.