Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sun needs an answer to iPhone ASAP, lest Java wither on the vine

Why isn't Sun giving away iPhones at customer schmoozes? They need their own Java complement ASAP, that's why.

A lot of times when you go to a Sun Microsystems schmooze event, they larder the request for your attendance with the chance to win an iPod-this or an iPod-that.

I actually got a Shuffle once just after they came out, and got to sit next to Tim Bray for dinner, too. I must have drank too much because I don't recall him saying anything interesting (or any of the other speakers, for that matter), but I sure remember that Shuffle. [Disclosure: Sun took me to a U2 concert in Boston once too, and that was awesome; thanks again.]

Yet, as far as I know, there are no free iPhones, or drawings for said hot new Apple wireless converged device, at any Sun events these days. And that's because Sun was betting part of the farm on the mobile-Java-this and the mobile-Java-that that would collectively need the next big friggin', honkin' mobile-Web-tone switch utility grid to become the best dar tootin' ringtone repository and server on Earth.

Problem is, even as tiny and robust mobile Java runtimes sit eagerly awaiting some killer apps (or widgets) on billions and billions and billions of mobile devices across the global (and no doubt orbiting Mars, too), it isn't Sun's mobile day in the clover quite yet.

Apple has made Java on the client less relevant, and OS X and Safari far more interesting. We await the iPhone third-party party any day.

And so, based on the world as it is, as a mobile developer, are you going to target Java generally or iPhones specifically? It's not a trivial question. Apple could shoot for the moon and get there. And where would that leave Java? Given the complexity that mobile Java has yet to simplify, I'm thinking the iPhone could be a big, friggin' threat here.

As I've said, creating mobile applications remains way too hard. Sun hasn't done nearly enough -- despite all the Java-this and the Java-that on all those phones and PDAs -- to make "write-once, run-anywhere" anything remotely relevant to mobile. Mobile Linux probably makes more sense to more embedded-minded folks when it comes to simplicity. I rest my case.

But, just like Ross Perot, I hear a big sucking sound -- and it is brains and resources being yanked away from Sun's NetBeans extravagance these past few years and on over to the next big mobile thing that Sun's must make work.

Yep, I hear that the brain trust at Sun around NetBeans is being tasked now with coming up with an iPhone platform killer ASAP, something to make Java more fun that a recharged manner mode LG in your front pocket. So call me.

Let me make a few guesses on the Sun Java iPhone killer platform: It will be open source, but not GPL v2, nor v3, nor CDDL; nor will it come with a Microsoft compatibility (and no-sue clause) certificate. A new license is being worked up, the MDDL (Many Developers De-lovely License). It will neither make neither the open source nor the propriety developer corps happy, and may even alienate them both. Perfect.

The Sun Java iPhone killer platform will make the case that Solaris on the mobile device is the right choice, either on x86 or UltraSparc (but you'd be silly not to use the UltraSparc, you cheapo you). Storage will cost extra, but you get a really good deal on the tape backup accoutrement to the Solaris mobile device. A free bedside dock for the tape backup will be available if you buy the stuff online. It runs cooler than Intel, too.

And the iPhone Java killer will also come with its own tools. Yep, they should be out in Q4 '08, and Swing support is assured.