ONJava.com -- The Independent Source for Enterprise Java
oreilly.comSafari Books Online.Conferences.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button O'Reilly Book Excerpts: J2ME in a Nutshell

The Mobile Information Device Profile and MIDlets, Part 1

Related Reading

J2ME in a Nutshell
By Kim Topley

by Kim Topley

Editor's note: This is the first of a five part book excerpt series based on O'Reilly's J2ME in a Nutshell by Kim Topley. Part one is an overview of MIDP and the MIDP Java platform.

MIDP is a version of the Java platform based on CLDC and KVM that is aimed at small footprint devices, principally cell phones and two-way pagers. It is also suitable for running on PDAs, and an implementation is available for PalmOS Version 3.5 and higher. (In the longer term, it is intended that these devices use the PDA profile, which is also hosted by CLDC.) The MIDP specification was developed under the Java Community Process and is available for download from http://jcp.org/jsr/detail/37.jsp.

The logical position of MIDP within the software architecture of a device that implements it is shown in Figure 3-1. The software that implements MIDP runs in the KVM supplied by CLDC and provides additional services for the benefit of application code written using MIDP APIs. MIDP applications are called MIDlets. As Figure 3-1 shows, MIDlets can directly use both MIDP facilities and the APIs described in Chapter 2 that MIDP inherits from CLDC itself. MIDlets do not access the host platform's underlying operating system and cannot do so without becoming nonportable. Because the KVM does not support JNI, the only way for a MIDP application to access native platform facilities directly is by linking native code into a customized version of the virtual machine.

Figure 3-1. The Mobile Information Device Profile

Sun provides a reference implementation of MIDP that can be used on Windows; the Wireless Toolkit, which contains versions of MIDP for Windows, Solaris and Linux; and a separate MIDP product for use on PalmOS-based PDAs. Device manufacturers typically use the Sun reference implementation as the basis for their own products. They usually integrate additional code as part of their MIDP implementation to provide management features such as installation, removal, and management of MIDlets that are not portable between devices and hence not part of the reference software. As shown in Figure 3-1, this code (labeled "OEM Code") may use some combination of MIDP and CLDC services and will also depend on the host platform's operating system. Some parts of the core MIDP software are themselves device-dependent and thus are also supplied by the manufacturer. These typically include parts of the networking support, the user interface components, and the code that provides persistent storage.

MIDP Hardware Requirements

As mentioned earlier, MIDP is intended for small devices with limited memory, CPU, and display capabilities. The minimum hardware requirements are described in the following sections.


As you'll see over the next few chapters, MIDP includes quite a lot of software that is not part of the core Java platform and therefore requires more memory than the minimal CLDC environment is obliged to supply. The MIDP specification requires at least 128 KB of RAM be available to store the MIDP implementation itself, over and above whatever is needed by CLDC. In addition to this, there must be at least 32 KB available for the Java heap. In practice, a 32 KB heap is very limiting and demands that the developer exercise great care when allocating objects and take all possible steps to avoid holding references to objects longer than necessary, in order to allow the garbage collector to reclaim heap space as quickly as possible. As well as the RAM requirement, MIDP devices must also supply at least 8 KB of nonvolatile memory to be used as persistent storage so that MIDlets can save information in such a way that it is not lost when the device is switched off. The content of this storage is not guaranteed to be preserved over battery changes, however, and there is a general expectation that the device also provides some way (such as the PDA "hot sync" mechanism) to back up its content to a more permanent location.


MIDP devices are characterized by small displays. The specification requires that the screen should be at least 96 pixels wide and 54 pixels high and that each pixel be (approximately) square. The screen must support at least two colors, and many cell phones are capable of no more than this. At the top of the range, PDAs typically have screens with 160 pixels in each direction and support as many as 65,536 different colors. This wide disparity in capability provides the developer who wants to write a fully portable MIDlet with some interesting challenges, and it has led to some trade-offs in the MIDP user interface library, as we'll see in Chapters and .

Input device

As with displays, there are several different types of input device that might be found on a MIDP platform. At one end of the spectrum, the more sophisticated devices, like the RIM wireless handheld, have a complete alphanumeric keyboard, as shown on the left of Figure 3-2. Similarly, PalmOS-based handhelds allow the user to "write" on a special area of the screen using a form of shorthand known as Graffiti; they also provide a simulated onscreen keyboard for users who prefer a more traditional approach. The screenshot on the right side of Figure 3-2 shows the Graffiti area of a Palm handheld.

Blackberry input.
Figure 3-2. Handheld input devices.

Contrast these highly functional keyboards (or keyboard substitutes) with the more basic one that you'll find on most cell phones, an example of which is shown in Figure 3-3. Keyboards like this provide relatively easy numeric input, but they require slightly more work on the part of the user to type alphabetic characters, and there are almost no special characters available.

The minimum assumption made by the MIDP specification is that the device has the equivalent of a keypad that allows the user to type the numbers 0 through 9, together with the equivalent of arrow keys and a select button as shown in the diamond-shaped arrangement at the top of Figure 3-3, where the select button is the white circle between the arrows. These requirements are directly met by cell phones and may be satisfied in various ways on other devices. On the Palm, for example, there are buttons that may be programmed to act as directional arrows, while the select operation can be performed by tapping the screen with the stylus. As we'll see in Chapter 5, this cut-down representation of the input device is reflected in the APIs that handle the user interface, and it requires the developer to be careful when handling events from whatever passes for the keyboard on the device on which a MIDlet is running.

Cell phone keypad.
Figure 3-3. A typical cell phone keypad.

Pages: 1, 2

Next Pagearrow