One of Sun's top engineers last week positioned his company's Jini distributed computing architecture as the magic formula to fuse the freedom of mobile devices with the power of networks.
The message holds particular relevance in mobile-crazed Japan where on-the-go high schoolers already order tickets, send e-mail and play games over their cell phones.
"The world where we are moving to is one where devices move around," said Jim Waldo, an engineer at Sun, speaking at the Java Developer Conference 99 in Tokyo.
"We need to stop thinking about networks as statically placed machines, but as networks that can also move around."
In Sun's view, the future will offer a wireless community of mobile devices and peripherals that will need some way to talk to each other, Waldo said. The way they speak will be Jini, an architecture written in Sun's Java programming language enabling disparate kinds of devices, such as hard drives, printers and mobile phones, to communicate easily over a network.
When a Jini-enabled device, like a digital camera, is connected to a network, it sends out a message announcing itself and requesting services from other devices on the network.
Another Jini-enabled device, for instance a printer, will "see" the message on a kind of virtual bulletin board, and send a message back offering its services.
That return message will include data on how the printer is configured and what it needs to be activated.