Sun Microsystems this week unveils the latest version of a software platform that supports enhanced messaging, graphics, video, audio and security features for a new wave of cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Officials say version 2.0 of the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP 2.0) extends the collection of Java technologies for these mobile devices. Sun developed Java as a software programming environment that can run on different operating and computing hardware. The Silicon Valley-based company, which will feature the MIDP 2.0 standard at Telecom Asia 2002, is a global supplier of industrial-strength computer hardware, software and services that have helped enhance the use of the Internet for consumers and enterprises. Eric Chu, group manager for business and marketing of Sun's Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME), says the availability of the MIDP 2.0 final specification, reference implementation and toolkit this week will step up the evolution of wireless data services using current Internet-ready cellular networks. Sun expects the first MIDP 2.0-based products to become available 'by the second quarter of next year', Mr Chu says. J2ME is the de facto standard for wireless data services that are deployed through more than 50 million handsets worldwide, supported by more than 20 mobile communications carriers. 'MIDP 2.0 is an important milestone in the evolution of mobile devices for both consumer-centric content vendors and corporations that are interested in developing and deploying secure end-to-end wireless enterprise services. 'This will translate into new revenue opportunities for industry participants and give further impetus to Java's growth as a de facto standard for wireless data services.' MIDP refers to a set of Java application programming interfaces (APIs) that help to provide a complete J2ME environment to support most of the low-cost mobile information devices in use at present, including digital mobile phones, PDAs, and two-way pagers. Mr Chu says the final MIDP 2.0 specification, reference implementation, compatibility test suite and beta version of the J2ME Wireless Toolkit 2.0 are being developed by more than 50 wireless industry leaders worldwide. Cellular communications giant Motorola led hardware tests on how MIDP 2.0 supports new and enhanced gaming, graphics, video, audio and security. Philip Gilchrist, vice-president of global standards and technical asset management at Motorola's personal communications business unit, says: 'As specification lead for the MIDP development process, Motorola has been happy to collaborate with other industry leaders to bring Java technology for mobile devices to maturity.' With the availability of MIDP 2.0, manufacturers and service providers are expected to be able to quickly and cost-effectively deliver to mobile devices using the J2ME platform increased functionality, more robust applications and a better user experience. In terms of hardware format, MIDP 2.0 is being touted as making cellular mobile applications more interactive and easier to use. For example, it enables a more flexible layout for increased portability of applications across devices with differing screen sizes. For network operators keen on differentiating their services, MIDP 2.0 allows developers to use the full audio capabilities of each hand-held device so they can add tones and tone sequences. Gaming also will benefit. 'Improved game support is a big thing here,' Mr Chu says. MIDP 2.0 adds a Game API that provides a standard foundation for building rich games, taking advantage of capabilities of native device graphics to simplify development and provide greater control over performance.