May 5, 2009

Is Java ME staging a comeback?

It has been said that Java on mobile phones is on its way out. Frankly, the odds were not on the favor of Java ME on a rapidly changing industry. Java ME is old, carries a lot of excess for the sake of compatibility, innovation is slow, it is not as feature rich and fragmented and so on... Lately, I have started to observe a tune change from a hating old lover to a sorry one.  Curiously, change is not happening because there had been great changes on Java ME.

Unfortunately, opinions are changing because alternates to Java ME are not able to provide a solution or years away from presenting a credible solution. Today, Java is the only technology that provides a working solution for cross platform mobile applications. I think industry is also starting to realize the fact that despite all its faults, Java was able to provide some solution. It is discovering, as it becomes familiar with the new technologies, behind all the shine and promises, the same or worse problems of the Java exists.

I am basing this suggestion to several of my observations. I have seen an increase in the number of Java ME developers using eSWT. This is significant because eSWT is relatively new and developers are usually choosing to use it for new and more capable applications. Another observation comes from my conversations with ISVs. Although numbers vary, one ISV told that about 75% of the new work they got was on Java so far this year. Also, Java ME remains the first client choice for server based applications, such as the one I have blogged about earlier or the mobile maps applications from Ericsson.

As I have said earlier this is not happening because the existing problems are solved. Alternate technologies are good technologies as well, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them. Eventually, they will be able to fulfill their promise. This comeback however may provide Java technology providers a signal that it is worth to make the investment to solve the remaining problems and enhance further the mobile Java. So what do you think? Will/should the industry respond to the call or just let time do its thing?