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MSA Panel Invites Feedback and Discusses Implementation Efforts
by Susan Mitchell

Fragmentation within the mobile market is an old story, but the Mobile Service Architecture (MSA) platform is already impacting the present situation while offering hope for the future.

The Java Community Process (JCP) Expert Groups for JSR 248, MSA1, and JSR 249, MSA2, face the challenging - some say "impossible" - task of trying to standardize in a mobile market that is like a teenager. You know how teenagers are, so young and excited, going every which way, with unlimited opportunities ahead.

You'd think that mobile developers, who yearn for the write-once-run-anywhere (WORA) dream to become reality, would be quick to weigh in on MSA issues. "The road [to WORA] is long," but MSA is helping, said Cuihtlauac (kweet) Alvarado of France Telecom-Orange during a panel discussion (PAN-5577) held at the Moscone Center on May 8, 2008 during the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco, California. "We've seen some of the developers reducing the number of versions using MSA and their tools and their intelligence. It takes good developers to accomplish this," he said. So why are developers not rushing to give feedback on the specification of MSA2?

Feedback on Devices and Corners Needed

During the event, a single slide remained on display:

Your feedback is very important to us
You can download the MSA 2 early draft specification at
Send your improvement ideas and comments to

Eighty or so attendees heard that key message over and over again by the industry experts who gathered to talk about MSA. MSA1 was an "umbrella spec," which included two sets of JSRs. "With MSA1 we made a good effort to reduce fragmentation. MSA2 covers a broader range of device categories: high-end, low-end, and emerging. MIDP3 will be the basic building block for MSA2," said guest panelist Kay Glahn, consultant for Vodafone, and co-Spec Lead on JSRs 248 and 249.

MIDP got plenty of feedback, while JSR 135, Mobile Media API, evoked very little, said Cuiht. "Multimedia did not raise the attention it needed, which is a shame because JSR 135 is causing a lot of pain and fragmentation. We want to do a better job with multimedia, but . . . there are so many corners that we need developers' feedback to define," he said.

Erkki Rysa, technology manager for Nokia and co-Spec Lead for the MSA JSRs, was on the panel as well. So far he has received hardly any comments on the Early Draft Review (EDR) for JSR 249, MSA2. "Even quite detailed comments on one particular device could be helpful for us to know," he said.

Good News and Live Input

"We sell an MSA full-set compliant handset once every two seconds," said guest panelist Christopher David, director of long-term platform planning at Sony Ericsson. Holy moly, that's a lot of devices! Orange is also seeing its vendors build on the platform, now in the "tens of devices. We hope to have it in all our devices in the reasonable future," said Cuiht.

To encourage live input from the audience, the panel promised a prize for the best suggestion for improvement. Andrey Krotov of Sun Microsystems, from Russia, and Telmo Mota of CESAR, from Brazil, each earned a Sony Ericsson phone that included a full MSA stack. O, happy joy.

Telmo made a case for the internationalization of GUI components in mobile phones, and Cuiht agreed, saying, "i18n is at the heart of the MSA2 platform because it's important for all countries." Andrey wondered, "Why are the requirements for this JSR so modest? MSA mandates two percent of the functionality, and 98 percent of the features are still optional." Ah, but the MSA2 requirements list is not set in stone yet. The panel moderator, Patrick Curran, chair of the JCP program, asked Andrey and every person who gave live feedback to promise to send detailed proposals.