March 29, 2004 -- Sun Microsystems and Research In Motion (RIM) are partnering to bring Java's Web services technology to RIM's BlackBerry devices, the companies announced on Monday, March 22.

Now RIM's roughly 1 million customers will be able to receive data from Java-based applications through Sun's Java Enterprise System or any other Java-enabled infrastructure.

The majority of Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM's devices are J2ME-enabled, including the BlackBerries 7750, 7510, 7210, 7230, 7280, 6510, and 5810.

"With RIM what we've done is announce a partnership to produce a solution to bring enterprise Java-based applications to the BlackBerry device, powered by the BlackBerry and its J2ME engine on the device side," said David Rivas, CTO of Sun's mobility group in Santa Clara, Calif. On the back end, users need a Java-based Web services platform such as Sun's Java Enterprise System.

This is enabled through J2ME and its Web services component, JSR (Java Specification Request) 172. JSR 172 is compliant with protocols from the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-1) and lets users access the Web using XML and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).

For the past four years, Sun has been working on multiplying the number of Java applications for mobile devices and so far made the biggest inroads on the consumer side with games, Rivas said. Now the company is setting its sights on the enterprise with the RIM partnership because Blackerry is one of the more widely-deployed enterprise devices, Rivas said.

"Sun has been very successful with J2ME, and most cell phones use it. There is a burgeoning framework around using micro-Java for design, development, and distribution of content through mobile devices," said Dan Gardner, senior analyst at the Yankee Group in Boston. "This gives (RIM) the opportunity to deliver content and, potentially, applications through (it)."

Ken Dulaney, a vice-president at Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn., said Sun has been far behind other companies in recognizing mobility aspects of the enterprise. He likened Sun and RIM's partnership to the deal between RIM and IBM from September 2003, when IBM announced integration with its WebSphere Everyplace Access (WEA) mobile middleware and BlackBerry's enterprise server.

"This (announcement) is just another infrastructure component like WebSphere," Dulaney said. "Sun's clients can link in their systems to BlackBerry devices using RIM's browser."

Dulaney added that it was a positive move by both companies and is necessary for them to stay competitive in the market, and Gardner called this a win for the micro Java environment and Sun.

"(BlackBerry) is a popular device and all of the mobile market needs to continue to innovate," Gardner explained. "Simply being able to do text through BlackBerry was popular in some countries like the US but (RIM) is going to be under pressure to provide more and better services—many of which will be content- and data-oriented—so for (RIM) to adopt Java makes sense."

Rebecca Reid writes for ITWorldCanada.com.

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