Intel, Microsoft, Sun Scramble For Wireless Developers
Intel, Microsoft and Sun will all be ratcheting up their wireless outreach to developers in the coming weeks in efforst to capture mind-share and talent for the next wave in mobile computing. Integration Developer News has prepared a short checklist of what developers can expect from the Big 3 in wireless PDA and cellphone developer packages over the next month on so.
Intel -- Next week, during the autumn Intel Developer Conference, the chip giant will lay a program -- complete with tools, instructions and lab support -- to encourage developers to write wireless applications for its line of Xscale PXA processors for handheld devices. The efforts are the latest in a continuing effort to appeal to and recruit Java and .NET developers looking for new opportunities in the midst of a period of slowing IT build-out.
Among the tools slated for release is VTune, a performance monitoring kit designed to help developers troubleshoot their wireless development and see how well their code in running. Intel's VTune Performance Analyzer is designed to collect and display software performance data. A web enterprise version, the VTune Enterprise Analyzer for Web Applications primarily collects data with a very low level of intrusion and minimal interference with the target servers and the application itself.
Developers already have a selection of non-Intel tools for PXA development, including several IDEs from independent vendors. An IDE from ARM Ltd called the RealView Developer Kit provides C/C++ compilers, a macro-assembler and linker for Xscale ARM-compliant architectures. Another IDE, an upgrade to Codewarrior Wireless Studio from Metrowerks Corp. will provide enhanced ARM compilers.
Also in support of Intel, Microsoft Corp. has been offering since spring a version of the Windows CE .NET kernel, and an optimized compiler for the XScale architecture and BSPs (board support packages) for both chips. The goal is to increase on-board application performance and development time. Windows CE .NET kernel support from some Xscale instructions that will optimize the scheduling of instructions to match Xscale pipelining. In addition, the BSPs will avoid the need to bring up Windows CE on the new PXA-based board.
There are two different lines in the XScale PXA family: the PXA250 and the PXA210. The PXA250 chip comes in speeds of 200MHz, 300MHz and 400MHz and is aimed at the handheld market. Clock speeds for the PXA210 are 133MHz and 200MHz--lower than clock speeds for Intel's StrongARM processors--and are aimed at entry-level handhelds and cell phones.
Both are 32-bit processors available in speeds between 200MHz and 400MHz, and have been benchmarked to run on only half as much power as Intel's earlier CPU for handhelds, the SA-1110 StrongARM processor. For developers concerned that less power means less internal real-estate, Intel dispels any concerns of a trade-off. The PXA family of chips both sport separate 32KB data and instruction caches, a 2KB cache for data streaming, 100MHz memory bus, a 16-channel configurable DMA controller, an integrated LCD controller, USB and Bluetooth interfaces, and a host of serial interfaces.
Aside from downloadable software, Intel is also opening a new lab at its Arizona-based Wireless Communications and Computing Group, to help software developers increase performance of applications that run on portable devices using its XScale PXA processor.
Microsoft -- Microsoft has released Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 SDK to members of its Mobile Solutions Partner Program (MSPP). The public launch is slated for later this year. While Microsoft clarifies the final version of the Smartphone software, it has yet to be released even to Microsoft's OEM partners. The SDK has been made available to Microsoft mobile solution partners so that they can begin developing applications.
The program will no doubt escalate later this year, as Microsoft releases the Smartphone 2002 SDK to general commercial release. But the real push will likely come after the Smartphone device is finally released. The kit will be commercially available later this year as Microsoft's Smartphone partners, who are telco carriers and phone-makers, will be looking for app-appeal (application appeal) to drive demand. Microsoft recently signed a pact with AT&T Wireless, and has deals with Verizon Wireless, VoiceStream, Sprint PCS, and Vodafone.
In addition, to appeal to the core enterprise developer, Microsoft this spring took the first step in making it easier for ASP and .NET developers to migrate their code to wireless devices. To support thin-client devices, Microsoft integrated the Mobile Internet Toolkit (formerly the Microsoft .NET Mobile Web SDK) directly into the Visual Studio .NET environment. Together, the toolkit and Visual Studio .NET enable developers to create applications that render intelligently on different devices, while taking advantage of features that are unique to a given device. Developers can create mobile Web application projects in Visual Studio .NET, and you can use the visual designer to create and edit mobile Web Forms pages.
The Mobile Internet Toolkit consists of a set of server-side mobile Web Forms' controls and the Mobile Internet Designer for authoring the user interface. It also includes a QuickStart tutorial, developer documentation, and the source code for device adapters.
Sun Microsystems -- Sun's effort to appeal to the mobile/wireless developer will also accelerate this fall. Sun will look to rally the current Java community around an upgrade to its MIDP (Mobile Information Device Platform) which sports a smaller footprint and more optimized performance to make it more appealing to cellphone makers. The software will also offer a more standard method of downloading, to encourage customers to customize their handsets more often -- and in turn, offer cellular service providers and developers of these services more profit potential.
Since its introduction in September 2000, MIDP has garnered the most attention from cellphone makers. CNET reported this summer that since MIDP's release in the fall of 2000, mobile phone leader Nokia estimates it has sold some 10 million cellphones that can run Java programs. Nonetheless, the need to supply cellphone makers with a way to differentiate themselves -- and most especially compete to take marketshare away from Nokia for smart cellphones,may create a split among Java providers. To avoid this, Sun is creating an Application Verification Kit that ensures a Java program can run in different companies' Java environments. The AVK has yet to ship, however.
Sun is also expected to provide a glimpse of what it intends as wireless extenders for its Sun ONE application server/enterprise portal software stack during the SunNetwork event in September 18.