While there's been plenty of buzz about the new features of the next-generation Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone, there's also been a lot of talk about what the device still lacks. Items still notably absent from the software guts of the iPhone include the capability to run Java applications via wireless client software from Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA ) .
While Sun announced that it will have its Java Micro Edition (Java ME) loaded on the new 900 series iPAQ from HP (NYSE: HPQ ) , plans to get the mobile middleware on the iPhone remain in limbo. While Sun is anxious to be a part of the iPhone revolution, Steve Jobs apparently isn't as quick to embrace the mobile Java world.
Apple's hesitance bucks the trend followed by just about every other mobile device maker. Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) have long embraced Java as a means to get advanced capabilities plugged into their devices, making phones more than just, well, phones. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) is also making a big push to induce developers to build Java applications for its record-selling Instinct touchscreen phone, running a contest with cash prizes.
Is Steve Jobs' ongoing denial of Java a smart move to control the iPhone ecosystem? Or will he orphan the iPhone into a land of fringe applications, as competing devices lure away users? It's a classic struggle for platform dominance, and it all boils down to one question -- does the iPhone have enough market power to entice enough developers to put the expense into yet another development platform?
I'm guessing that, like the initial experiment with unsubsidized pricing of the iPhone, Apple will keep tight reigns on its platform until it is absolutely forced to move away. After all, part of the allure of the iPhone is exclusivity -- it's not just another "me too" smartphone. Had Jobs strayed from the iTunes platform and embraced other media download standards for the iTunes Store, the iPod might have just been another MP3 player.
And Apple stock wouldn't be pushing $200, either.
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