Mobility Day in Frankfurt -- A Big Hit

I just got back from Mobility Day here in Frankfurt Germany, where I attended almost a full afternoon of sessions about Sun's technologies and tools for mobile devices. I came away from it feeling very good about what's available today and what will be available tomorrow.

Today: Java ME Technology and Development Tools

On the today side of the ledger there's Java ME, which continues to be a compelling platform that can be used to develop applications for a wide spectrum of mobile devices -- anywhere from Sun Spots (Sun's Small Programmable Objects Technology) to set top boxes. Barr made this point in a session titled "Introduction to the Java ME Embedded Community," in which he gave an overview of Java ME. Barr briefly talked about the technology stacks for the two major Java ME device configurations: CLDC (for lower-capability devices) and CDC (for higher-capability devices). He also spoke about and demonstrated the major tools for developing Java ME applications: the Sun Java Wireless Toolkit and NetBeans with the Mobility Pack plug in. But what was most interesting from my point of view was a demonstraton of the Yahoo! Go application, a Java ME application (running CLDC) that essentially provides the same services as the web-based Yahoo application, but for a mobile device. Barr showed the application running in a Nokia phone as well as in a Windows Mobile device. That gave visual emphasis to what developers can build with Java ME.

Barr also spent some time talking about the Java ME Mobile & Embedded Community, which he described as a very active and thriving community that's working on some really interesting Java ME-related projects such as Phone ME Feature software and a Windows 6.0 MIDP stack.

Barr's session was followed on the agenda by a number of sessions that continued to focus on what's available today in Java ME or in tools that work with Java ME. In a session titled "Mobility on NetBeans" Mobility Pack Software Engineer, Karol Harzelak, demonstrated a number of important features in the Mobility Pack for NetBeans. These include a flow designer that allows a developer to visually build and manage the sequence of screens in a mobile application, and a screen designer that helps a developer design screens in a mobile application. What also caught my eye in this session was a demo in which Harzelak built a bridge between a Java ME client and a Java EE web application.

Harzelak ended his talk with a nice demonstration of a new feature in the Mobility Pack called the game builder, which supports the MIDP 2.0 game API. Harzelak showed how the tool can be used to create sprites, tiled layers, and scenes, the essential building blocks of game applications.

Harzelak's talk was followed by a session given by Sun staff engineer Jean-Yves Bitterlich on the graphics, user interface, and media APIs in Java ME. He quickly went through a variety of APIs, from the earliest simplest MIDP API, lcdui, through the more sophisticated APIs such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), 3D APIs, and the Mobile Media API. He also demo'd some of the capabilities that these APIs offer, such as animation through SVG.

Tomorrow: The Addition of Java FX and Java FX Mobile

On the future's side, Tim Cramer, Director of Engineering in Sun's Client Software Group gave an overview of Java FX with most of the emphasis on Java FX mobile -- after all, this is Mobility Day. This was a wide-ranging session in which Cramer talked about the objectives and architecture of Java FX, some of its history, answered quite a few questions about Java FX Mobile, and showed (with Terrence Barr) a number of examples of what Java FX is capable of doing.

Cramer admitted that what he covered about Java FX Mobile is not there today. But this didn't dampen the interest of the audience which showed its interest by asking Cramer many questions about the technology, ranging from technical -- will Java FX Mobile work with Session Internet Protocal (SIP)?; to business -- what market share do you envision for the next few years?; to the slighty fanciful -- will Java FX Mobile run on an iPhone? The answers (briefly) to the above are: Not in the first release, but in the second release shortly after that; It's hard to predict, you need to also factor in the time it takes a device manufacturer to make phones available with the technology; Sure, as soon as they put Java on it.

Good Turnout -- Good Questions

In fact I was gratified in general by the number and quality of the questions that the audience asked after every session. Most of the audience seemed to be engaged and quite interested. And there was a good sized audience. I was told that 81 people registered for Mobility Day. I counted more than 50 attendees - quite a good turnout for a Tech Days session in Europe.

... and Some Interviews

I'll end this blog with something that happened at the beginning of Mobility Day -- actually a little before Mobility Day started. Both Terrence Barr and Tim Cramer wer gracious enough to agree to be interviewed by me. I'll cover that interview in my next blog entry. Stay tuned.

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