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Sun plans Java for iPhone, iPod touch

After receiving access to the iPhone and iPod touch through Apple's SDK, Sun Microsystems says it will release a version of Java for the two Apple devices.

The decision was made just a day after Apple announced its SDK plans and after an investigation which suggested that a Java virtual machine environment would be feasible, according to Sun's Java marketing VP, Eric Klein.

Initially, the software will be a variant of Java Micro Edition, a mobile version of the software most often used for cellphone games as well as some specialized business apps, such as CRM (customer relations management) or ERP (enterprise resource planning) tools. However, the Sun official also said that the software would hopefully be optimized for the iPhone and allow access to features specific to Apple's mobile platform.

"We're going to work to make sure that the [virtual machine] offers the Java applications as much access to the native functionality of the iPhone as possible," Klein said.

The executive also said his company wouldn't rule out more advanced developments. JavaFX, a second mobile version of Java built partly to substitute for Flash and other web animations, was possible. Over time, the company could also write a version of Java Standard Edition if its initial experience proves worthwhile.

While a release of Java for the iPhone and iPod touch would not appear until sometime after Apple's June launch of its version 2.0 firmware and the App Store needed to download the program, the announcement represents an end-run around Apple's own resistance to implementing Java on its own. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said no Java was coming from his own company as late as this week and last year described a full Java engine as a burden to the phone that was unlikely to be used by developers.