Fascinating article on the limitations on running J2ME apps on the major US cell phone carriers. The bottom line:

  • Verizon makes J2ME impossible
  • T-Mobile makes standalone J2ME easy, but requires a signature from T-Mobile or a more expensive plan if you want to write a networked app
  • AT&T is the most open: apps that wish to use HTTP can use it. (Lots of other apps that also interact with handset data, like the address book, must be signed)
  • Sprint is similar to AT&T, though rumor has it that getting your app signed may be easier
  • Nextel (which is owned by Sprint, but is a different network) requires that the app either be on the Nextel portal, or that you download it through a cable.

Overall, this means that experimentation with the really interesting J2ME apps that are likely to change the world is difficult to do outside of companies that have marketing relationships with the phone companies. This approach to a closed platform seems likely to cramp creativity. Why not turn the platform loose, and let millions of apps develop, ala Facebook? (There are serious concerns here about security: the first phone virus to wipe out a carrier’s network is going to be intriguing. But: it seems important that we think carefully about how to provide sufficient security without sterilizing the platform.)


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