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Developer.com's Wireless/Mobile Community Celebrates A Winner

  • By Alex Gusev
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The Developer.com Product of the Year 2006 Contest has ended. Last month, readers voted for their favorite products they used to develop with and enjoyed. A Wireless/Mobile section reflects developers' priorities and market trends more distinctive than in the previous year. We see approximately the same main players in there (how surprising)—Java against C/C++ and C#, mobile phones' OS battle, and so forth. But this year, unlike the previous one, you can observe several common trends. The Wireless/Mobile community by far isn't an exception on this tricky way as well...

First off, a look at an alphabetical list of the finalists:

Product Company
J2ME™ Wireless Toolkit Sun Microsystems Inc.
Microsoft® Visual Studio™ 2005 Microsoft Corporation
NetBeans™ Mobility Pack NetBean.org
Nokia Developer's Suite for J2ME™ Nokia
Sybase® PocketBuilder 2.0 Sybase Inc.

As you can see, Java-based products have occupied 60% of the list. In the era of global communications, enterprise-scaled IDEs and frameworks and significant advance in capacity of mobile phones, such a situation is more than intuitively understandable. The wireless Java install base is still growing rapidly. On the other side, Windows CE-based devices (Pocket PCs or Smartphones) are on the hot spot as well, additionally being pushed forward with Windows Mobile 5.0 OS. According to the latest investigations, many tier-1 and tier-2 companies in different market segments are at the point of replacing their IT infrastructures, and having a part of their recent applications as mobile ones is a big need now. Thus, let me overview the most popular developer tools for mobile programmers.

NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.1

Continuing on the Java road, you have a number of choices of IDE to develop with. Just to name a few here, there are Jbuilder/Mobile Studio form Borland, WebSphere Studio Device Developer from IBM, EclipseME, and so forth. Among them, Sun's NetBeans IDE 4.1 and NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.1, being open source and free, stand apart from others. Taken together with WTK, this software gives you an implementation of many J2ME developers' dreams, providing you with more development power and efficiency. It is available now for the following operating systems:

  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional SP3
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, Fedora Core 1
  • Sun Java Desktop System 3.0

Again, more details can be found here.

NetBeans Mobility Pack extends the NetBeans IDE to make it much easier to develop and deploy mobile applications based on J2ME. The latest release has many cool enhancements. A big part of it is Visual Mobile Designer. It allows you to create and control GUI behavior visually. You can easily switch between Screen designer, Flow designer, and source code, which is generated for you by the IDE, so you may effectively concentrate on application logic. Besides, third-party emulators can be easily integrated for unit tests.

NetBeans Mobility Pack 4.1 has its shortcomings as well; for example, all the visual components are assembled into a single MIDlet class, so reusability of the code isn't as easy a thing as would be desired. But, nevertheless, it does a great job and helps you make J2ME development much more productive.

Nokia Developer's Suite for J2ME™

Nokia Developer's Suite for J2ME™ provides developers with utilities for creating and deploying MIDP 1.0 and MIDP 2.0 applications on Nokia cell phones. It can be used as a stand-alone product or as an integrated plug-in to Eclipse, Borland JBuilder, and Sun ONE Studio. Like Sun's WTK, this tool appears among the Contest finalists again and again. This is not a big surprise either, because the number of Nokia phones all over the world is quite impressive. Hence, take a look what you can find inside the Nokia Developer's Suite for J2ME™ for now.

The new UI Designer for building user interface layouts and tiled layers for games gets your developer's life better. You can sign your classes and application packages using the MIDP 2.0 security model. Application deployment was also improved. Now, you can deploy the programs to the device using Bluetooth technology, including new Symbian devices. Emulator support was enhanced as well, so the phone simulation works much better and is designed to show how applications may appear on J2ME-enabled mobile phones with more reality.

Microsoft® Visual Studio™ 2005

Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 was finally released about a month ago. In a mobile application developer's sight, it brings a lot of new exciting facilities and challenges. From now on, Microsoft integrates all development environments into one common IDE, so mobile developers may feel like desktop ones in terms of tools and capabilities.

There are many cool features of the product itself. Here, I mention only those that are important for mobile developers:

  • Support for native C++ projects
  • MFC and ATL libraries were upgraded to be similar to the latest desktop versions
  • Enhancements in .NET CF
  • Easier POOM Access
  • SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition integration
  • Enhancements in device emulator
  • Windows Mobile 5.0 support

These are quite a few, but you will find it cool and exciting. Just one of the things in there—the ability of the emulator to run an application compiled for a device—makes it worth being delivered!

Newly added functionality and various changes can, nevertheless, cause some problems in porting your existing applications. But, once done, programing becomes much more pleasant.

Sybase® PocketBuilder 2.0

This is a mobile and wireless RAD tool that allows developers to create mobile applications in hours. With PocketBuilder, you can build Smart Phone/PocketPC applications and synchronize the data between the PocketPC and server databases.

Sybase PocketBuilder 2.0 exposes a wizard-driven programming model as part of its 4GL IDE. You do not need to do any real coding because you have hundreds of handy built-in functions, many ready-to-use components, and drag-and-drop RAD programming.

Key Sybase PocketBuilder 2.0 features and benefits include:

  • Patented DataWindow technology: Unparalleled data access, processing, and presentation specifically targeted for mobile devices—all without coding.
  • Simplified MobiLink Synchronization: Locally stored data minimizes battery draining connection time, but still allows up-to-the-minute data for mobile users. Wizards designed for the typical programmer but designed by distributed database experts, simplify reliable synchronization. Tight integration with the market leading iAnywhere mobile database ensures reliability and rich enterprise-level functionality for developers and end users.
  • Additional Mobile Application Support: Native support for global positioning services (GPS), barcode scanners, Smart Phone platforms, PocketPC devices, printers, and cameras. PocketBuilder 2.0 also provides support for phone short message service (SMS), where the user can quickly and easily add a new dimension of communication and flexibility from the providers' applications, specifically track calls with the call log and access and modify contact information with phone directory support. Example programs cover everything from signature capture to biometric non-repudiation to connecting to 3rd party packages like Tom Tom Navigator. The applications execute on all the PocketPC and Smart Phone platforms including Windows Mobile 5.
"Sybase's award-winning PocketBuilder is the only true RAD tool for mobile development, and continues to empower enterprises to build and deliver data-driven mobile applications in just hours," said Karen Frederiksen, Sybase's director of application development technologies. "It's an honor to be selected by readers of developer.com as part of the developer.com Product of the Year."

Well, according to polls, this product was the "runner-up" in this category, beating even MS Visual Studio 2005. If you do need to get powerful and robust product quickly, this tool can serve you pretty well.

And the Winner Is...

J2ME™ Wireless Toolkit 2.3

The Sun Java Wireless Toolkit (formerly known as Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) Wireless Toolkit) constantly catches top ranks in Developer Tools Contests during the last few years. Based on J2ME's Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) and Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP), its wireless applications are designed to run on cell phones, mainstream personal digital assistants, and other small mobile devices. The toolkit includes an emulator, performance optimization, and tuning tools—in other words, all that developers need to bring efficient, robust, and successful wireless applications to market as soon as possible to be the best among the competitors. The Sun Java Wireless Toolkit can be used as a standalone development environment or with an IDE, such as the NetBeans(TM) Mobility Pack.

The Sun Java Wireless Toolkit includes and adds many developer-friendly features. Some of them are listed below:

  • New standard APIs:
    • Security and Trust Services API (JSR 177)
    • Location API (JSR 179)
    • Content Handler API (JSR 211)
  • Choice of emulator skins and enhanced screen features
  • Create project from Jar and Jad file
  • Support for third-party emulators
  • Enhanced performance monitoring
  • Customization
  • Integration with popular integrated development environments (IDEs)

Additional info about the new features of WTK 2.3 are described in more detail in this article. The Sun Java WTK 2.3 adds new capabilities and new APIs while keeping the same excellent quality of the product. The toolkit provides nice flexibility to use it under MS Windows either in standalone mode or with an IDE—for instance, the NetBeans™ Mobility Pack, which will be discussed later on. Thinking about J2ME™-based solutions, it is worth give it a try!

"The Sun Java Wireless Toolkit allows developers to utilize the latest Java APIs for building compelling mobile applications." says Eric Chu, Director, JavaME Platform Marketing. He adds, "By continuing to advance the Wireless Toolkit with the latest innovations, Sun is committed to enabling developers to build and market more appealing services through Java enabled mobile phones."

So, J2ME™ Wireless Toolkit has won the battle again. Our applause goes to the Winner!

About the Author

Alex Gusev started to play with mainframes at the end of the 1980s, using Pascal and REXX, but soon switched to C/C++ and Java on different platforms. When mobile PDAs seriously rose their heads in the IT market, Alex did it too. Now, he works at an international retail software company as a team leader of the Mobile R department, making programmers' lives in the mobile jungles a little bit simpler.

This article was originally published on January 18, 2006

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