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The Future of Java: Part 1

Eric Bruno is a Java consultant, author of Java Messaging, and Java blogger for Dr. Dobb's. He can be contacted at [email protected].

As part of a series of articles regarding the future of Java, I recently spoke with Mark Herring, the director of Java brand marketing at Sun, and as Vicki Freitas, Sun's Java brand manager. Our conversation centered on Java's use by consumers, or those that are exposed to Java because they use applications or play games written in Java. It should come as no surprise that these applications and games are mainly targeted for cell phones, and in many cases, younger audiences.

According to Mark, about three years ago Sun conducted a study and discovered that Java was experiencing considerable consumer growth. Again, most of the growth was with kids who were interested in Java-based games to play on their cell phones. As a result, Java's growth on cell phones, hand-held devices (such as PDAs and the like), and even embedded devices, has grown.

Java-enabled Cell Phones and Applications

The result is that there are over 3 billion Java-enabled cell phones in the world today. In fact, based on polls that Sun has taken, most consumers favor buying cell phones that have Java on it, even amongst those who don't know what Java is. This makes sense because Java is Sun's most popular brand, with about 85 percent of non-developer, non-technical, consumers reporting that they identify Java with something "generally good," even if they don't know exactly what it is.

Java's consumer success goes beyond cell phones, however, as seen by the excitement it has generated for Blu-ray high-definition DVD players that are being introduced to the consumer market. Electronics manufacturers, such as Samsung, will soon offer Blu-ray DVD players with Java built in to offer rich interactive services not available on today's DVD players. What's really interesting is that many of these vendors chose to include the Java brand on their products to gain a competitive edge. for a press release on the product.

On the business side of the consumer market, Ricoh recently launched a series of office printers with Java embedded. The Java-powered printers let corporations build custom applications, or integrate their existing applications, to create more efficient business processes easily and quickly. One such application involves the use of a Java card, requiring the person who sends a print job to swipe his card at the printer before anything is actually printed out. The intent is to avoid having sensitive information get into the wrong hands if the person who sent the print job does not get to the printer in time, or simply forgets which printer the job was sent to. Swiping the Java card ensures that the print job is held up (yet still queued) until the person arrives to physically grab it.

Java enabled this application with unique, and very useful, functionality. The broad range of technologies offered by the Java platform, such as the Java card, makes it possible to integrate devices with new and existing applications in an environment that is already familiar to most developers.

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