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The Mobile Information Device Profile and MIDlets, Part 1
Pages: 1, 2


Mobile information devices have some kind of network access, whether it's the built-in wireless connection in a cell phone or pager, or a separate modem attached to a PDA. MIDP does not assume that devices are permanently attached to a network or that the network directly supports TCP/IP. It does, however, require that the device vendor provide at least the illusion that the device supports HTTP 1.1, either directly over an Internet protocol stack, as would be the case for a Palm handheld connected to a modem, or by bridging a wireless connection to the Internet via a WAP gateway. This provision allows developers to write network-aware MIDlets that work equally well (other than performance differences due to differing network bandwidth) across all supported platforms.

MIDP Software Requirements

Sun's reference version of MIDP is not a commercial product. Device vendors are expected to port the reference implementation to their own hardware and software by implementing code that bridges the gap between the expectations of Sun's reference code and the vendor's hardware and operating system software. As with the hardware described previously, the reference implementation makes the following assumptions about the capabilities offered by the software base on which it will be hosted (shown as "Host Platform Operating System" in Figure 3-1):

  • The operating system must provide a protected execution environment in which the JVM can run. Because CLDC supports the threading capabilities of J2SE, the host platform ideally supports multithreading, and, if it does, the KVM can make direct use of it. However, MIDP implementations are required to provide the illusion of multithreading even when this is not available from the native operating system. They do this by sharing the single available thread between the Java threads that belong to application code and those used within the VM and the MIDP and core libraries.

  • Networking support is required in some form. On some platforms, such as PalmOS, a socket-level API is available, over which the mandatory MIDP HTTP support can be implemented. In the case of devices that do not offer such a convenient interface, including those that do not have direct connectivity to an IP-based network, the vendor is required to provide a means for HTTP to be bridged from the device's own network to the Internet. The networking aspects of MIDP are discussed in detail in Chapter 6.

  • The software must provide access to the system's keyboard or keypad (or equivalent) and a pointing device, if it is available. The software must be able to deliver events when keys are pressed and released and when the pointing device is moved or activated. (For example, for a handheld with a stylus, the software must deliver an event when the stylus touches the screen, when it is lifted off the screen, and when it moves over the screen.) The vendor is required to map whatever codes are delivered by the user's keystrokes to a standard set of values so that similar keystrokes lead to the same results across different hardware platforms. This issue is discussed further in Chapter 5.

  • It must be possible to access the device's screen. MIDP allows MIDlets to treat the screen as a rectangular array of pixels, each of which may be independently set to one of the colors supported by the device. Therefore, it is required that the software provide access to the screen as if it were a bit-mapped graphics device. MIDP user interfaces and graphics are covered in detail in later chapters.

  • The platform must provide some form of persistent storage that does not lose its state when the device is switched off (that is, when it is in its minimum power mode, but not necessarily when it has no power at all). MIDP provides record-level access to this storage and therefore requires that the host software supply some kind of programmatic interface to its persistent storage mechanism. The MIDP storage APIs are described in Chapter 6.

The MIDP Java Platform

The Java platform available to MIDlets is that provided by CLDC as described in Chapter 2, together with a collection of MIDP-specific packages arranged under the javax.microedition package hierarchy. The core libraries themselves are almost unaffected by the MIDP specification; the only change is the addition of the J2SE 1.3 timer facility in the java.util package, which will be covered in the later section "Timers and TimerTasks". The MIDP specification also places the following requirements on the core libraries:

  • Like applets, MIDlets are managed in an execution environment that is slightly different from that of a Java application. As you'll see shortly, the initial entry point to a MIDlet is not the main( ) method of its MIDlet class, and the MIDlet is not allowed to cause the termination of the Java VM. In order to enforce this restriction, the exit( ) methods in both the System and Runtime classes are required to throw a SecurityException if they are invoked.

  • In addition to the system properties defined by CLDC, MIDP devices must set the microedition.locale property to reflect the locale in which the device is operating. The locale names are formed in a slightly different way from those used by J2SE, because the language and country components are separated by a hyphen instead of an underscore character. A typical value for this property would be en-US on a MIDP device, whereas a J2SE developer would expect the locale name in the form en_US. Since both MIDP and CLDC provide almost no support for localization, however, the precise format of this property is of little direct interest to MIDlets. Instead, it is intended to be used when installing MIDlets from external sources, to allow the selection of a version of the MIDlet suitable for the device owner's locale. The property must therefore be properly interpreted by the agent (perhaps a servlet running in a web server) that supplies the software.

  • The system property microedition.profiles must contain at least the value MIDP-1.0. In the future, as new versions of the MIDP specification are released and implemented, devices that support multiple profiles may list them all in this profile, using spaces to separate the names.

In summary, the values of the system properties that are introduced by or changed by MIDP relative to the requirements placed by CLDC, are shown in Table 3-1.

Table 3-1: MIDP System Properties





The current locale of the device

e.g., en-US


Blank-separated list of supported profiles


In the next installment, the focus will be on MIDlets and MIDlet Suites.

Kim Topley has more than 25 years experience as a software developer and was one of the first people in the world to obtain the Sun Certified Java Developer qualification.

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