Mar 21, 2010

Java ME against the Giants: Unfair Fight

Hi all,

Since app stores came out and thousands of apps started to be downloaded by consumers, it's been very common to find comparatives on the internet among the main mobile platforms development, e.g., iPhone, Android, Java ME, etc. People want to know which platform is more popular between the consumers and developers as well. What we have seen is that iPhone has been leading the pack to spare. To check out one of this comparatives, see this one by Flurry.

After seeing this Flurry's comparative, you may be concerned about Java ME's future, since iPhone and Android are thousands of miles ahead in numbers. You may be thinking of Java ME is condemned to death and you should start right away to study these platforms. In fact, regardless of anything, it is a good idea to work with them as well. You are not supposed to be restricted to a single platform. Anyway, you are a solution provider, aren't you?

To explain a little bit why iPhone and Android are so popular and Java ME not, let me tell you something: these platforms have the marketing money and mindshare with them now. The power from Apple and Google (i.e. Open Handset Alliance) is a such a powerful thing. On the other hand, Java ME needs to waits for the manufactures' will to implement the JSRs and put onto the devices. In addition, Java ME's concept is to be present on any device, on the other hand, iPhone and Android target a specific set (or single) of device. This is really a problem for Java ME, because in order to be generic, it ends up leveraging device fragmentation.

The developers may be thinking of MIDP 3 will bring Java ME back to the fight against the giants. Not at all! MIDP 3 has a good set of features, but the reasons that contribute for the current scenario still exist and will remain, e.g., no big player investing on it. Sony Ericsson even attempts releasing very powerful Java ME devices (e.g. C905 JP-8), but it is not enough. However, if we had a manufacturer that implemented all the JSRs that are specified by JCP and put all of them onto a single device, the situation could be better off.

So, in my point of view, it is very difficult for Java ME to compete equally with the giants iPhone and Android, regarding the reasons I have explained above. Mainly, if you are planning to work with app stores. However, I still see Java ME a interesting choice, because there is a huge number of devices that support it in the market, which still have a long life ahead. In addition, many companies also work with mobile solutions for clients that do not want to spend much money on iPhones or G1's, and end up opting for Java ME-enabled devices.

Definitely, the current market is smaller for Java ME, but there will be always space for everyone.

See you in the next post...