Android just reproducing Java ME's problems, now

Is Android a Java platform? It's certainly Java-esque, in the sense that for the most part you write apps for it in Java code. But it's not blessed by Sun or tested for compatibility -- in fact, it's incompatible with standard Java in several specified ways; its VM isn't an official JVM; and, to make things wackier, the Java it's based on is Java SE, not Java ME. This drives folks like Hinkmond Wong, Sun's Java ME blogger, crazy. But you can make a decent argument that the sorry, fragmented state of Java ME brought made Android inevitable. With its crazy quilt of different implementations on various handsets and OSes, Java ME was never going to be the platform for the next generation of desktop-quality apps; a new platform was necessary to help Java code take over the mobile world.

Except! It turns out that Android is hitting all the same fragmentation problems as Java ME, and in record time! Not only are there three different versions of the Android OS out in the wild at the moment, but different handset manufacturers customize the platform and add their own specialized ROMs, with the result that code that runs on one phone completely borks out on another.

You can say a lot of negative stuff about how Apple handles the iPhone -- their arbitrary rejection of apps based on content is particularly egregious. But I think that their basic model, in which they tightly control the both the OS and the hardware, is boon for developers. It may be that the only way to have a platform that is truly standardized is to have one company in charge of it. Microsoft was essentially able to impose a more-or-less standard x86 platform spec on PC manufacturers by the sheer power of its monopoly, but nobody has ever managed to do the same for cell phones. Android was supposed to be developers' great hope, but it may be another sign that a truly interoperable platform can't be built by multiple companies with competing agendas. And that's something that ought to interest Java developers, whether they care about cell phones or not.