Should manufacturers of handheld devices opt for Sun's Personal Java or for Microsoft's Windows CE? Both have their benefits, found a panel at Comdex/Fall on Monday.
The panel brought together speakers from Sun, Microsoft and from Philips, a manufacturer of handheld devices that use both Java and Windows CE technologies.
Personal Java 1.1 is based on the popular Java language, but runs in far less memory, said Peter Mandany, engineering manager for the Consumer Java platform at Sun.
To run a Personal Java virtual machine with a basic mail application on top requires no more than 483Kbytes of Rom, said Mandany, compared with almost 3Mbytes of Ram for the same app running on a full fledged Java VM.
The portability inherent in the Java language will provide the link between all types of embedded devices running various operating systems, argued Mandany.
But Jonathan Roberts, director of marketing at Microsoft, disagreed. "We think it is important to have the operating system as a link between devices," he said.
He added that this would allow manufacturers to leverage existing development tools and code, as well as existing expertise.
Roberts said that a basic Windows CE kernel can be shrunk down to about 250 Kbytes, and that by next year the operating system will offer real time functionality.
"We at Philips don't play favourites," said Tony Fadell, vice president of business development at Philips. Philips manufactures the Nino and Velo handheld devices, as well as WebTV set-top boxes. He said Philips makes its choice of platform based on the application.
The advantage of Windows CE, said Fadell, is that it is based on a widely known programming interface set, the Win32 API.
Another key advantage is its good support for rich media. Because the operating system is tightly coupled to the hardware, it will allow for good 3D performance, said Fadell. Finally, CE also offers good connectivity with PC platforms.
On the other hand, running Personal Java on top of an embedded real time operating system will isolate the software developer from the underlying hardware, which will make it more difficult to obtain high performance in such applications as 3D.
But Personal Java, because of its multi-platform nature, does make sense for devices that can be upgraded by the end user, said Fadell. And it is also a good choice for manufacturers intending to migrate from a proprietary real time OS (such as VXWorks) to another platform - Personal Java can be run on top of the OS, and new applications written to the Java VM.
Personal Java can also run on top of Windows CE, offering what some might describe as the best of both worlds. But Fadell disagreed: "They both cost money, and they both need memory," he pointed out.
Personal Java does require an underlying operating system, but traditional embedded operating systems are typically cheaper and smaller than Windows CE, said Fadell.
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