Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Java ME vs Android Take 2

I have just completed my first ever .Net program. This program, as it turns out, is built using the .Net Compact framework.

All in all, I believe .Net has been very beneficial for Java. .Net lit a fire under Sun's behind and this helped propel Java, both SE and EE, to new heights in order to stay competitive. Unfortunately, seeing how much better .Net Compact is, it appears this statement doesn't hold true for Java ME.

The first problem is the lingo. Java ME comes in basically 3 flavors: CLDC, CLDC/MIDP and CDC. CLDC is puny and doesn't offer much, it currently runs and ships on over a billion phone. CLDC/MIDP is a version of the CLDC with additional packages to make the experience a little less dreadful. Finally, we have the CDC, the CDC is a modern Java ME that supports a feature set that is considerably richer and on par with .Net Compact and Android.

Now, if it would end there, one could easily ask what the point of Android was? Unfortunately, it doesn't end there, that would be too simple. Each of the above profile has different versions and all of them are still being actively developed. If that's not enough fragmentation for you, Sun doesn't actually provide Java for mobiles. Instead it licenses the code to carriers and these carriers port the profile to their operating system. Carriers can also ship other ME implementations, e.g., the one from IBM. Just to spice things up, most, if not all of these carriers add their own packages on top to compensate for missing features. It also means that without a standard distribution, unlike .Net Compact, updating the version of Java on a mobile is practically impossible because carriers don't usually bother publishing updates. If a phone is shipped with an old version of the MIDP, that's it, deal with it.

That being said, I missed the real killer benefit of Android the first time I blogged about it. All these profiles from Sun still use the Java 1.4 language. So you can forget about using generics or anything of the sort. I could not find anything about updating the Java dialect to 5 or 6 for Java ME. Android uses the Java 5 dialect. The other good thing about Android is that there is, at least for now, only one SDK, not one per mobile.

All is not lost for Java ME however. Sun is still busy toiling away at its own Java mobile environment called JavaFX. Sun is still hoping to converge Java ME to the full Java SE in the future, good deal.

The best hope for Java ME in the short term is that Sun has now GPL'ed Java ME and is maintaining ports of the distribution for Linux and Windows CE. The project doesn't seem that active but it will at least give a standard build of ME that developers can distribute to their customers directly. Unfortunately, this project also has no information about updating the Java dialect to 5 or 6.

I am now a big supported of the Java platform, i.e. Groovy, JRuby, Java SE 6 and Java EE 5. Until Java ME cleans up its house or until Android finds a market, I'll stick to .Net Compact thank you very much. I would not consider .Net for any type of project outside of mobiles due to, all jokes aside, the lack of portability, but I can't think of anything better for mobiles right now.

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