Intel and Sun Microsystems have put aside high-level rivalries to pursue the smart phone and mobile computing device market by working to optimise Sun's Java software for the Intel XScale processor, which powers advanced voice and data phones and handheld devices.
Vice-president and general manager of the PCA component group at Intel, Hans Geyer, described the agreement as unprecedented, calling it "the first formal deal" between the two competitors.
According to Geyer, Intel saw the deal with Sun as “significant because Java is becoming (the) leading programming language for cell phones, while at the same time, the XScale processor is becoming the leading processor for cell phones”.
“We are excited about the deal with Intel,” senior director of Sun's consumer mobility and strategic solutions group, Juan Dewar, said. “It confirms that we are the leading solution for wireless data services.”
He estimated that by the end of this month, more than 100 million Java-equipped phones would have been shipped worldwide.
Dewar said that Sun licensed its “reference implementations” of Java to resellers such as Palm, some of whose newest handhelds use XScale processors, or South Korea-based Samsung, that plans to introduce a line of XScale phones this summer.
He declined to provide details of those licensing agreements, but said that resellers paid more for optimised reference designs because they could reduce development time.
Dewar said that the Sun/Intel partnership should start shipping the optimised code by mid-June.
Developing an optimised version of the Connected Limited Device Configuration of the Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME) for XScale processor meant applications would run faster and the hardware would have a longer battery life, Geyer said.
He said that the Intel/Sun agreement was an engineering partnership that didn't involve payments by either company.
IDC analyst, Alex Slawsby, said J2ME could use the performance boost. Although the software is easy to use for application development, Java programs “have always been slow,” he said. “This should help improve the user experience”.
ARS analyst, Sam Bhavnani, said the partnership will allow Sun to poke its nose into Microsoft's tent because a number of manufacturers of hardware based on Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system already used XScale processors, as did hardware based on the Microsoft Smartphone operating system.
Later this month, Bhavnani said, Microsoft planned to introduce the 2003 version of Pocket PC, which he said was designed to run solely on XScale processors.