Java ME as middleware to Mobile Ajax?


In previous posts, I have always been bullish about Mobile Ajax and also said that the iPhone acts as an unexpected catalyst to Mobile Ajax .

There is another, rather curious development which is also bringing Mobile Ajax to the forefront in an unexpected way.

In a nutshell, I would call it Mobile Ajax over Java middleware or using Java as a middleware to Mobile Ajax

The best known example of this approach so far is mojax from m-foundry

Using Java as middleware actually makes a lot of sense because at the moment, Java APIs have access to some of the lower level functions of the device. These include the APIs for the Camera, Bluetooth, Messaging, Address book, location etc. By using Ajax (essentially Javascript) on top of a Java middleware layer, we also overcome the other big limitation of Java i.e. porting issues which I pointed to before and also align closer to Web standards.

The basic approach seems to be to threefold: Use Javascript and Ajax functionality at the UI; Java as middleware and add some other elements like caching, offline capabilities etc to provide a hybrid application platform(i.e. using some web standards but not over a browser).

I welcome any development that moves the industry forward – in that sense it’s a welcome development.

However, many like C Enrique Oritz (CEO)

have said that Mojax is not true Ajax , and I have to agree with that. (Read CEO’s post in detail and you will see the technical reasons why). Rodney Aiglstorfer, CTO and co-Founder of mFoundry (creator of mojax) counters this argument saying that it is too technical

However, I think CEO is right here(but that’s not to belittle the work done by the Mojax team) because he points out areas where the implemenation is not truly Open Standards based.

It’s hard to ignore Open Standards on mobile devices because of the cost savings involved. This is happening all through the Mobile stack – for instance – take Mobile Linux where Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics, and Vodafone have announced the non profit LiMo Foundation.

My point here being(and that’s what I think CEO is also saying): if you don’t standardise – you can’t really hope to go mass market.

Thus, companies like Opera benefit from working closely with the standards because the standards based solutions ultimately are open and cost effective especially when it comes to embedded/device applications, something enshrined in Opera’s vision and Google’s commitment to Open Standards

Similarly, companies like Soonr are building great Mobile Ajax apps which don’t necessarily need access to device APIs. Nokia has also committed to full web browsers.

Finally, from a technical perspective, nothing prevents browser vendors from gaining access to device level functionality. If Java and symbian can do it – so can browsers i.e. its just a matter of time.

Thus, I view this as an interim solution but certainly one that works.

In the final analysis, the question is:

a) Will developers like it? Will they see critical mass? Will they see revenue models?

b) Would end users like the experience?

c) Would the industry want to deploy it

So, the jury is still out on this approach but its good to see my original predictions about Mobile Ajax being disruptive coming to fruition