Sun Microsystems is banking on Java technology to drive much-needed overseas expansion, primed by China's emergence as the world's largest mobile communications market. Invented by Sun more than a decade ago as a cross-platform programming language, Java is now becoming the lynchpin for the mainland's fast-expanding mobile phone and digital entertainment sectors, according to Daniel Yu, president at Sun Microsystems Greater China. 'Our market for Java in the mainland is mainly in the entertainment sector, in particular gaming, where we see continued growth this decade,' Mr Yu said. 'Last year, we estimated the entertainment sector contributed 76 per cent of total Java application volumes.' That scale of mainstream adoption is apparently helped by the rise in experienced Java application developers. Sun counts about 200,000 Java developers in the mainland and more than 4.5 million Java programmers worldwide. 'The industry has never seen a platform adoption rate like this before, especially in China,' said Mr Yu, noting that the marketing of wireless games was expected to be worth 1.3 billion yuan this year, up from 600 million yuan last year. Even Web-based properties, such as Yahoo Games, Electronic Arts and MLB.com, use Java technology to give users a more interactive experience. Java is also being hardwired into most handsets being assembled on the mainland, where there are more than 360 million mobile phone users. Mr Yu said cellular coverage in China was far from saturated as mobile communications were expected to reach further into the countryside. Research firm ARC Group estimates that the worldwide market for Java-related products and services will earn wireless network operators US$15.5 billion in revenue by 2008 from about US$1.4 billion in 2003. 'With the advent of third-generation mobile communications, more Java-enabled messaging services, games and other applications in China will be in use,' Mr Yu said. To mine that opportunity and create greater market awareness for the technology, Sun will hold the inaugural JavaChina Conference in Beijing on September 13 and 14. 'The event will take place simultaneously in eight cities across China, connected live via satellite to Beijing,' Mr Yu said. The cities are Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Xian and Dalian. The two-day JavaChina Conference has already registered about 7,000 participants, helped by the endorsement from the Ministry of Information Industry, the China Software Industry Association and the China Information Industry Trade Association. With its dotcom heyday a distant memory, Sun has built its mainland business and made it the most consistently bright spot for revenues and investments. The company has established around 100 research and development centres in China, and has more than 1,000 employees in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.