Sun Microsystems Inc has spent an undisclosed, but evidently insignificant amount to acquire the intellectual property of SavaJe Technologies Inc, a developer of a mobile operating system based on Java.
SavaJe, which was based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, was founded in 1999 and raised some $120m from a range of high-profile investors that included the VC arms of companies like Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange, all with a view to developing its OS, which was launched in 2001, and then to marketing it into the handset manufacturers.
It had relatively little success, however. Only one handset manufacturer, Korea’s LG, did eventually pick it, and only then on one phone, with the other devices that sports the OS being SavaJe’s own Jasper S20, which it developed presumably as a proof of concept to whet potential OEM’s appetite.
That Sun wants to have a full Java-based mobile OS in its arsenal is an interesting development. Java is, of course, used on countless mobile phones around the world already, but in a sandbox environment for running a particular app such as a Java game. However, with smart phone OSes like Linux opening up so that apps can be downloaded directly to them, this may result in a reduction in demand for Java technology in the mobile arena over time.
Sun may want to counter such a trend with a full-blown Java OS, therefore. It promises more details about its plans at the JavaOne conference in Sam Francisco from May 8-11. While it did not reveal the amount paid for the SavaJe assets, it did say it would have no material impact on its financial results.
Whether a Sun-owned Java OS for cellphones will fare any better in the market than it did when it was SavaJe’s remains to be seen. Handset manufacturers and mobile operators are already drawing up their list of supported OSes for 3G and beyond, with NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone both plumping for Linux, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Nokia is a Symbian shop with some dabbling in Linux for non-cellular devices such as its WiFi tablet, while Motorola is, by and large, a Linux shop, with WM5 and WM6 on its smart phones for the business user. Sun may be a bit late to the party.