Press and Success
A few years ago, the Short Message Service (SMS) protocol enabled text messaging of up to 160 characters between capable phones, and B4 U could LOL, English MSGS had gr8ly changed 4ever :-D. Besides text, SMS also allowed for the sending of simple ringtones, calendars, clipart, and WAP, which stands for Wireless Application Protocol. Nowadays, over 20 billion text messages are sent every month.
But there's a new game in town: Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) permits users to heighten the impact of their messages by adding rich sounds, pictures, and video clips. With MMS, those audio-visual messages can be sent to any digital device on the network, such as another mobile phone or an email address.
JSRs 120/205 Enable Wireless Messaging
SMS and MMS are just the protocols, however. To get them to actually work on a JavaTM technology-capable mobile phone required the development of two Java Specification Requests through the Java Community ProcessSM (JCPSM) program: JSR 120 Wireless Messaging API (WMA) and JSR 205 WMA 2.0.
Jan Eichholz, senior architect Wireless Java at Siemens AG, served as Spec Lead for both JSRs. On the impetus for the projects, he says, "In the past there weren't any APIs available to access special features like SMS, MMS, and so on for mobile phones. With JSR 120, we added the features to send and receive SMSs and to send broadcast messages, which are very specific to the mobile phone." An ordinary phone can't send Cell Broadcast Service (CBS) messages, but with this Java technology, a mobile phone will be able to send messages to multiple devices simultaneously. "JSR 205 adds the capability of sending and receiving multimedia messages, which are being used extensively within the mobile phone space right now," says Eichholz.
As the first available implementation of a JSR, the Reference Implementation (RI) offers companies an example that they can license to use or adapt for commercial products. For JSR 205, the RI and Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) designer is Marquart Franz, who serves on the JCP Executive Committee (EC) for Java 2 Micro EditionTM (J2METM). Franz is vice chair of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) Game Services working group and principal engineer at Siemens Corporate Technology (CT). He has headed up the main Java activities of Siemens CT since 1996, and his research and development team supports various Siemens groups, including the Siemens Mobile Phones group, in terms of Java technology design, architecture, implementation, licensing, and standardization.
An early access version of the RI for JSR 205 is currently available to the Expert Group. "The design is made in a way that should be very easy to adapt the RI to a mobile phone. Our biggest goal is that we want to have the RI within Siemens phones as soon as possible, so we have to make the software in a way that it is usable for us," Eichholz explains.
However, Franz notes that the experts appear to be more interested in when they can acquire the final TCK, a toolkit that allows developers to test their own implementations for compliance with the specification of the JSR. While Siemens was responsible for the RI of JSR 205, experts are welcome to develop their own implementations whenever they wish. "Everyone on the Expert Group can just take the spec and implement it. When the JSR is finished and the TCK is available, the TCK can check the implementation real fast," says Franz.
But from start to finish, every aspect of the process takes time. Even after someone acquires the JSR, RI, and TCK, "they don't bring out a handset within a month or three or so," says Franz. "At the beginning, the JSR itself is interesting for handset vendors who want to port it to their handsets. The first thing you will see is companies enhancing their emulators, which will allow developers to start developing applications and testing them. Then they wait to see who will have the first device out there. The race starts after everything is finished."
Nicolas Lorain, product line manager for the Wireless Java Platform at Sun Microsystems, notes that all the licensees for JSR 120 have licensed both RI and TCK so far. "We expect that the major handset manufacturers have been working on 'proprietary' implementations, while most Tier 2 handset manufacturers and third-party software providers -- which provide software implementations to some handset manufacturers -- have been relying to a certain extent on our RI source code."
Expectations for a broad implementation are high. Jan Eichholz says, "We expect nearly every mobile phone with Java technology this year or next year to implement JSR 120, since 120 is part of JSR 185, the umbrella JSR for JTWI -- Java Technology for the Wireless Industry."
With JSR 120 Wireless Messaging API, the race is on, and there's definitely a prize at the end. "WMA is the perfect example of value-added optional packages in the J2ME JCP process. It smoothly fit into the JTWI R1 release and was a significant value add to the J2ME Wireless Toolkit," says Gary Adams, the expert who designed the Reference Implementation for JSR 120. "SMS infrastructure is already deployed technology and developers are ready to tap into those capabilities from Java applications. It's a win win win situation for handset manufacturers, network operators, and content developers." Adams is currently a staff engineer in the Consumer and Mobile Systems Group (CMSG) in Software Products Group at Sun.
Aplix Readies for Manufacturer Demand
Gary Katz, director of corporate marketing for Aplix Corporation of America, agrees that including JSR 120 in JTWI ensures that most, if not all, manufacturers are going to want that capability. "When you add MMS -- which is becoming a very popular application that JSR 205 delivers -- I think that should be attractive to developers. It's going to make Java technology an increasingly important and exciting platform for developers, and consumers benefit as a result because they get more functionality and better content on their mobile phones."
Aplix, a participant in the JSR 120/205 Expert Groups, sells the JBlend platform, a component, modular Java platform that is customized according to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications. According to the Aplix Website, JBlend technology is "the most deployed Java execution environment for wireless devices in the world," licensed by technology leaders such as Alcatel, Casio, Hitachi, Kenwood, Kyocera, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Motorola, NEC, SANYO, Sharp, Sony, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba 1.
JBlend includes the Aplix implementation of JSR 120 when a customer requests it. "Each customer gets their own optimized binary version of JBlend," says Michael Leone, chief technology officer of Aplix Corporation of America. "We look at the phone itself, the chip set, the operating system, and the customer's Java requirements -- for instance, whether 120 is needed. We simply deliver whatever customers ask for."
Aplix has served on twelve JCP Expert Groups, viewing such participation as essential for staying ahead of customer demand. As an example, Leone says, "Our involvement in the JSR 120 expert group enabled us to create our implementation in parallel with the specification being defined."
Because Aplix is so customer-driven, whatever their customers ask for in terms of functionality, they have to be prepared to offer. A customer may have three different phone models they're working on with various combinations of JSRs on them. "We have to quickly understand our customers' roadmaps and how JSRs fit into them, then deliver an implementation of JBlend that enables customers to ship their products on time. We finished our JSR 120 implementation late last year and made it available to customers shortly thereafter."
The company is doing a booming business, with more than 20 million shipments of JBlend in 58 models of mobile phones sold by 11 global operators. While those shipments do not include the JSR 120 implementation, that will change shortly. Leone says, "Because operators are specifying this functionality, most of the customer roadmaps we've seen include at least one phone in development that supports 120. It's one of the most popular JSRs, and we've already delivered our JBlend implementation of 120 to several customers. You'll probably see products from some these customers in our three major markets, Japan, the US, and Europe, starting later in 2003 and continuing into 2004."
Motorola Handset Coming Soon
R. Seshadri is a principal staff engineer at Motorola who was a member of the Expert Group for JSR 120 and now serves on JSR 205's Expert Group. He says, "Motorola is very pleased with the quick evolution of JSR 205 from JSR 120. We feel it has the right set of APIs that will excite any Java technology developer to write midlets to deliver SMSMS and MMS. We believe this will spawn off many new rich media applications, which will exploit the delivered MMS content."
For the MotorolaV600 handset, Motorola's Personal Communications Sector (PCS) licensed a custom version of Aplix's JBlend platform that implements JSR 120. Retail models are supposed to be available very soon as an elegant package comprising advanced messaging features, a camera, "always-on" Internet connection, downloadable games and productivity applications, and other must-have features. 2
Motorola's iDEN i730 wireless handset model also supports JSR 120 and is designed to allow users to send messages via SMS and MMS. 3
Motorola has made the i.JV Reference Implementation for J2ME technology an integral part of the company's Innovative Convergence Platforms, giving OEMs a standard J2ME solution that can be rapidly configured and adjusted to meet 2.5G and 3G (second- and third-generation) handset market requirements. The i.JV RI includes the WMA optional package in order to make it possible to access wireless communication resources and use smart, connected Java applications. 4i
Nokia Already in the Marketplace
Nokia participated in the Expert Groups for JSR 120 and 205, and the company's investment of time and energy has proven fruitful. According to various Nokia Web pages and papers, JSR 120 is considered a core technology in their latest handsets. One of Nokia's white papers states that JSR 120 is a "key" Java API. The API makes it possible for multiple parties to play games, taking turns over SMS and/or MMS. Nokia is formalizing this strategy by implementing the Nokia Developer Software Platform (NDSP) for use by developers of content to be used in Nokia's Series 40 and Series 60 handsets. Among other things, NDSP 1.0 contains the JSR 120 Wireless Messaging API.5
Clearly, Nokia has wasted no time churning out compelling products that implement JSR 120. Nokia handsets that implement WMA are for sale right now, including a phone that is oriented horizontally for better keyboarding of messages and music management 6, a basic model available in Europe that features mobile chat and picture messaging 7, a handset that has a built-in video and still camera for creating combinations of picture, video, text or voice to send to a phone or PC via MMS 8, another that has a faceplate that flips up to access a complete keyboard, which is essential for frequent messaging 9, a snazzy game deck/phone that includes an MP3 player and wireless browser 10, and many others 11.
Sony Ericsson Makes Plans
Hanz Häger is the Java Product Manager for Sony Ericsson and also the J2ME Executive Committee (EC) representative of Sony Ericsson. He reports, "We have implemented JSR 120 in our American version of T610 that is called T616. We plan to have more JSR 120 supporting handsets." Although he would not comment on unannounced products, Häger says additional handsets supporting JSR 120 are forthcoming.
Sony Ericsson was part of the JSR 205 Expert Group. "I can only say that we are excited over this, and we also feel that this JSR has been successful in the sense that it has been going forward in a good pace," says Häger.
How to Find it Out There
It can be hard for a user to determine which phones implement the technology resulting from JSRs 120 and 205. Some manufacturers such as Nokia refer directly to WMA or JSR 120 on their specification Web pages. According to Leone, on handsets from other manufacturers, "it's more likely that a user would identify the technology by code phrases such as, 'Java technology-enabled messaging' or 'JTWI-compliant phones.'"
Rich, rapid, fun communication via SMS or MMS is yours when you own a Java technology-enabled phone that implements JSRs 120/205. Got some time to kill before your next appointment? How about a quick game of Chess or Go? Oops, gotta take a raincheck -- my newborn niece's pictures are just coming in from Paris! CU L8TR ;-D.
1 - Aplix Corporation of America clients and products are mentioned on the "Making Wireless Java A Reality" pages.
2 - Motorola V600 handset is promoted on its own product review page.
3 - Motorola iDEN devices with Java technology are described on the developer community specification page.
5 - The white paper pdf file, "Java technology enables exciting downloading services for mobile users," mentions Nokia's use of JSR 120 and is available through the search engine on Nokia's main web site.
6 - Nokia 3300 Music Phone is described on Nokia's American retail web site.
7 - Nokia 3410 Phone is available in Europe and Latin America.
8 - Nokia 3650 Phone is described on Nokia's American retail web site.
9 - Nokia 6800 Phone is described on Nokia's American retail web site.
10 - Nokia N-Gage is described on its own web site.
11 - Although Nokia retail sites do not explain whether a given model implements JSR 120, the Nokia developer-support documents list that information in the specification for each phone. For details, see the developer forum web site and .pdf files on phones targeting the Americas, as well as other parts of the world.