Sun stirs to unify Java

The tech giant plans to build ties between the different flavors of Java in a bid to present the programming technology as more unified.

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Stephen Shankland
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SAN FRANCISCO--Sun Microsystems plans to build ties between the different flavors of Java in an effort to present the programming technology as more unified.

Sun has created four major classes of Java technology--Enterprise Edition for servers (J2EE), Standard Edition for desktop computers (J2SE), Micro Edition for gadgets (J2ME) and Java Card for chip-enabled "smart" cards and the ID tags found in European cell phones. Now it's Sun's job to bridge the gaps between those categories, said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of the company's software group, in an opening speech Tuesday at the JavaOne conference here.

"We've got to get more effective at integrating together Java Card, J2ME, J2SE and J2EE together as one networked system," Schwartz said. A successful Java future will require "one Java, not lots of disparate Javas that don't work together."

Java, a programming language and accompanying software to run programs written in the language, is one of Sun's most important efforts to keep Microsoft at bay. While Sun has had limited success convincing programmers they should use Java for desktop computer programs such as word processors, Java has proven successful on servers and, more recently, on cell phones.

Though the various categories of Java will be better tied together, the categories themselves won't be eliminated, Schwartz said.

Sun claims that today there are 3 million Java programmers, but the company wants to hit 10 million. It plans to do that by unifying Java components and by gradually delivering its "Rave" programming tools, which will be designed to bridge the gaps.

As expected, Schwartz uncloaked a new Java logo as the cornerstone of an advertising and branding campaign, the goal of which is to make average consumers demand software, gadgets, computers and other products that sport the Java coffee cup logo.

The new logo keeps the old coffee cup logo, but forsakes the drawing of wispy lines for one with fewer, bolder strokes. "We've got to have an icon that's more iconic, more readily recognized," as well as easier for product companies to emblazon on cell phones, set-top boxes, credit cards and other products, Schwartz said.

Sun will spend tens of millions of dollars on the campaign, and as-yet unnamed business partners will bring the total to hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. The company hired pop singer Christina Aguilera to plug Java-powered mobile phones.

Those phones are one of the key areas for the Java push. For Vodafone, the world's largest wireless carrier, Java game sales are the second-largest revenue source in its push to sell fancy cell phone services, according to Guy Laurence, the company's chief executive for global content services.

Early standards for Java phones were too narrow, with the result that companies ended up adding their own extensions and undermining the "write once, run anywhere" promise of programming universality Sun advertises for Java. That's starting to come together again, at first with version 2.0 of the Mobile Information Device Platform and then later with a broader set of Java technologies, the Java Technology for the Wireless Industry (JTWI).

Sun expects that eventually the majority of Java phones shipped will support the JTWI standard, said Juan Dewar, senior director of the consumer, mobility and strategic solutions group.

Sun and a host of partners collectively create various extensions to Java through submission of Java specification requests, or JSRs. Of the 221 JSRs in process, about 50 are for Java phones, said John Fowler, Sun's software chief technology officer.

In earlier days, Sun was responsible for most JSRs, but now others are in charge of more than half, Schwartz said.