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While the iPhone continues to snub Java, Google looks to step up to the plate

When Google announced that it was working on a phone project, many fantasized that it was making a "GPhone", similar to Apple Inc.'s iPhone.  Google surprised many when it was revealed that it was instead creating a Linux-driven OS and development environment to compete with Symbian and Microsoft's mobile phone operating systems.  Google is taking the project very seriously and is offering $10M to developers and startups to develop creative software for the platform.

Google released the Android SDK with much aplomb in November, confident it would rock the industry -- it did for some extent.  The platform gained strong support from T-Mobile, HTC, Motorola, and other key industry players.  It has been opposed by Verizon and AT&T, though, who were concerned that it would undercut their proprietary.

Now a new version of the SDK is out and with it is some new improvements.  The programming interfaces and development tools have been updated to be more functional and easier to use.  Google has added a new OS user interface, which includes an OS X dock look-alike.  It has also added the capability to create layout animations for applications.  The phone now supports many more formats, including OGG.  It also includes geo-coding support and a new Eclipse plug-in.

What is really interesting is not so much the minor iterative details, but the big picture of what Google is trying to do.  With Android, Google is emphasizing not only the importance of SDKs for phone operating systems, but also the value of Java support for mobile applications.  While Java seems a natural fit for mobile applications, it was snubbed by Apple's Jobs and did not appear in the iPhone.  Jobs was quoted as saying, "
Java’s not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It’s this big heavyweight ball and chain."

However, many argue that the iPhone and iPod lineups onboard iTunes components could be much better written and full featured if they were written in Java, which was made for such cross-platform embedded scenarios.  Google is championing Java, and unlike other Java SDKs for mobile applications, is letting programmers work with the phone on a deeper native level -- a first.  It feels that by doing this it can leave less full-featured phones like the iPhone in the dust. 

One key competitor to Google will be Sun's own JavaFX Mobile SDK, which is currently under development.  Where Google basically uses its own brand of Java with “Dalvik” bytecode, Sun supports traditional Java bytecode.  This means that while Google's Android SDK can run equally deep and full featured software to Sun's offerings, there will be no working code base for it from legacy code. 

Who will win the mobile phone industry -- Android SDK with an early launch and lots of financial backing, or JavaFX Mobile SDK with its more traditional Java support -- remains to be seen.  However, it is clear that Google is very committed to pushing both mobile SDKs and Java.  Sun and Google are certainly united on one issue -- that the iPhone and various other phone maker's lack of native Java support is a glaring, and ultimately fatal, flaw.

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Java, the ball and chain
By SlipDizzy on 2/15/2008 10:26:30 AM , Rating: 5
"Java’s not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It’s this big heavyweight ball and chain."

All this time I was thinking Java was actually pretty popular. ...

RE: Java, the ball and chain
By lukasbradley on 2/15/2008 10:49:00 AM , Rating: 2
Four months old, but I've heard echoes of this discontent from many Java/Mac fans.

RE: Java, the ball and chain
By masher2 on 2/15/2008 11:30:16 AM , Rating: 3
Whether or not it's fair to the language, there has been a spate of expensive failures among large Java projects among the Fortune 100. That's certainly contributed to recent perception changes.

RE: Java, the ball and chain
By Polynikes on 2/15/2008 1:14:50 PM , Rating: 4
You can't blame a programming language for programmer error or unwise/ill-fitting language choice.

RE: Java, the ball and chain
By psychobriggsy on 2/15/2008 11:53:00 AM , Rating: 2
Definitely, it's the number one language for mobile applications I imagine these days. IIRC the entire Blackberry interface is written in it. I remember other phones having Java interfaces as well, although to be honest I wasn't impressed - more of a design issue than a language issue however.

Also massively popular for server applications.

On desktops? Collossal failure to be honest, and deservedly so for messing up the UI so comprehensively, with the zero-features AWT and then the over-featured but non-native Swing. SWT is pretty good these days, although it's not very Java-like. Java 6 is meant to have better native hooks for Swing as well.

I wonder if IBM will port J9 to the iPhone when the SDK arrives?

RE: Java, the ball and chain
By Foofer on 2/15/2008 5:24:29 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the ball and chain that runs the iTunes Music Store. Does Mr. Jobs even know that WebObjects has been all java since about 2000?

While he credits the iPod and iTunes as saving Apple's butt, he rips on the language that made it all possible. Think different indeed!

RE: Java, the ball and chain
By leidegre on 2/16/2008 3:21:46 AM , Rating: 2
Until the day Java replaces type erasure with actual runtime generic types, I remain skeptic. It's such a sloppy work, it makes Windows 98 look good.

Java is struggling at best. If they wanna be competitive in this crazy age of Ruby, and C# ... they need to start allowing people to do some multi-paradigm stuff, and not so much concern them selfs with the purity of a OOP language.

Listen up verizon!
By NullSubroutine on 2/15/2008 10:30:18 AM , Rating: 3
Use their OS!! Yours sucks!

I can't stand Verizon's OS its ugly, pitiful, and tries to force you to buy everything through Verizon even when the phone supports it natively.

I had to hack my KRZR last year just to put my own background and music on it, while those who bought it through other cell carriers and used Motorola OS only had to drag and drop files after installing a driver.

RE: Listen up verizon!
By SlipDizzy on 2/15/2008 10:41:22 AM , Rating: 2
I have Verizon as well and I will admit that their actual service (in my area) is very strong. I drop very few calls compared to other companies in my area.

However, I will say that their OS is total crap. The OS is enough to make me want to switch to another phone, but I don't think I could deal with the connection I'd get from other companies. I've tried T-Mobil, Sprint (before the merge), and AT&T, and they all drop calls. GET RID OF THE JUNK OS VERIZON!

Note: I'm not saying Verizon > All. I'm just stating that in my area they seem to have the better signal strength.

RE: Listen up verizon!
By Natfly on 2/17/2008 7:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
I'd have to agree, Verizon has great service but they purposefully cripple their phones so you pay for more of their services.

Mail systems key for me
By GreenEnvt on 2/15/2008 11:46:36 AM , Rating: 2
I'd love to switch to a phone that isn't MS, but nothing right now can synchronize calendar and contacts, or push my exchange e-mail to the phone, nearly as well.

Hopefully this works well in Android.

RE: Mail systems key for me
By Darkskypoet on 2/15/2008 12:45:00 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Mail systems key for me
By GreenEnvt on 2/15/2008 3:14:10 PM , Rating: 2
We're too small a shop to invest in a blackberry enterprise server, we already have an exchange server that is perfectly capable of pushing out e-mail.

iPhone is a macguffin
By michael2k on 2/15/2008 2:07:35 PM , Rating: 5
So the argument boils down to this:

Google will provide the tools to compete with the iPhone, but someone has to take up the challenge to actually outdo the iPhone, whether it be HTC, T-Mobile, Motorola, or whatnot. This is no different than the existing system under Microsoft, except for the possibility that Android is better than Windows Mobile. In that respect then Google's real goal is to displace Windows Mobile while using the iPhone as a visible target.

The reality is that if the members could not outdo the iPhone with Symbian or Windows Mobile, they are unlikely to be able to do so with Android. And if they COULD outdo the iPhone with Android, then they could do so with Symbian or Windows Mobile, as well, without having to wait for another year of development waiting for Android to be "complete".

Java is good
By MagnumMan on 2/15/2008 11:04:00 AM , Rating: 2
Write once, debug anywhere is not the best thing but better than porting native code, especially in the mobile market. I have a Windows 6.0 phone. One of my favorite apps is TeleNav and that is Java based. Does the iPhone even have navigation software? If they had included Java in the iPhone they would probably already have a TeleNav option... my biggest complaint there is that the TeleNav voice prompts do not go through Bluetooth for audio, I guess that's a limitation of what Java can do, or someone hasn't spent enough time trying to solve it.

RE: Java is good
By Scott66 on 2/15/2008 11:37:08 AM , Rating: 2
Java is good, but it is slow. I have had Java apps for OSX and linux and they were slow compared to the same app specifically coded for XP Good example was Novell's Groupwise. XP version was OS specific, while Linux and OSX used a Java coded version. Speed was 4-5 times slower on start up and at least 3 times slower in operation.

iPhone: soon to be known only as a relic
By cyyc009 on 2/16/2008 11:17:21 AM , Rating: 2
It's good to see Google getting in on the mobile phone game. Now, if only Microsoft would do the same thing (I'm hoping for a Zune Phone, but that may or may not be a possibility in the near future), then the iPhone will become a thing of the past. It sucks in the first place really. No customizable ringtones? Come on, Apple.

By QueBert on 2/16/2008 3:48:59 PM , Rating: 2
you can do custom ringtones on an iPhone, it was figured out how what 2 weeks after it was released? the iPhone is great at what it does. a Zune phone would probably be as poor as a Zune, only thing a Zune has going for it is the wireless share. Besides that, it's a harder to use, more limited iPod clone. The Zune Software is quite possibly the worst piece of software I've ever used. If you think the iPhone sucks, a ZunePhone would be infinitly worse, and probably a lot more restricting. iPhone + Jailbreak = sweet. When the 3d iPhone hits later this year it will be almost perfect. Nothing will touch the iPhone's interface.

By maverick85wd on 2/15/2008 10:29:45 AM , Rating: 2
It has been opposed by Verizon and AT&T, though, who were concerned that it would undercut their proprietary.

I had Verizon and I hated their proprietary crap, they wouldn't even let RAZR users upload ringtones to their phone because then they couldn't rip their customers off with their crap ringtones

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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