Sun Plans JVM Port to The iPhone

In less than a day, Sun determines it can port its Java Virtual Machine to Apple's ubiquitous handset.

After a 24-hour blitz through the Apple iPhone SDK, Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) has declared it can use the SDK to get its Java Virtual Machine (JVM) ported over to Apple's phone, as well as the iPod Touch, since the two are virtually the same technology.

Sun's JVM is already on the Mac OS, which is used in the iPhone and iPod Touch. Sun won't be able to ship a final JVM until Apple releases the final version of the SDK, which is expected to be around June. It will be a free update for iPhones, but iPod Touch users will have to pay for it.

Due to accounting regulations, Apple is forced to charge for software updates to the Touch because accounting rules say if you upgrade a device that's not on a subscription, you have to charge. Apple recently released five new applications for the Touch in an upgrade for $19.99.

While the devil is in the details on the SDK, and Sun said it may run into a surprise or two here and there, the company is "confident" it has what they need to get the JVM running.

"This is really exciting for us," Eric Klein, vice president of marketing in the client solutions group at Sun, told InternetNews.com. "We're spent the last 24 hours taking a look at it to make sure it had the components we would need to bring the JVM over."

The ultimate goal is for Java developers to be able to write their applications in NetBeans and deploy it on the iPhone as readily as any other platform.

Some issues remain for Sun to work out, said Klein, referring to the soft touch controls and how the iPhone handles things such as pitches and drags.

Java ME is currently used on cell phones and is a subset of the larger SE platform. Sun is currently putting its efforts behind JavaFX, which will be its entry in the rich Internet applications (RIAs) market.

At last year's JavaOne conference, Sun attempted to demonstrate JavaFX on smartphones, with some success.

"The iPhone and iPod Touch, from a platform perspective, would be one of the most robust smartphones on the market," Klein said.

"So there is a lot of headroom for us to look at very innovative things we could do," he said. "This first step is to get a JVM running on it. We'll talk about [more ambitious plans] when we are more comfortable with understanding everything."

That would be the real killer app, said analyst Clay Ryder, president of The Sageza Group. "If all [the JVM port] does is let you run the apps other phones have and they don't do anything new and creative, it's a check box item plus," he said. "But since it's a lot more powerful platform, there's a potential to do a lot more with it. If folks can wrap their heads around getting more powerful apps on it, then it's a game changer. Then it might start looking like a pocket PC, which you can do more with than a telephone."

With Apple declaring Adobe's Flash to be too resource-heavy for the iPhone, that puts JavaFX in a good position to be the best substitute out there for RIAs, added Ryder. "It would be a win for Sun and a loss for Adobe," he said.

Klein said Sun has no release date on the JVM as yet -- even a beta -- but the company will keep developers updated through its blogs.

He added that Sun will have an update at the JavaOne conference in May.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.






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