Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sony Ericsson in JBed with Esmertec Shocker? We Must be Told

So the Jbed saga continues. 'Guilhem' alleges Sony-Ericsson use the Jbed JVM, something that even Esmertec don't know about - could it be true? Could the most reliable and arguably most advanced MIDP JVM in the market actually be Jbed in disguise? Could the many bugs on the LG Chocolate and the Siemens SF65 purely be down to incompetence at the manufacturers, and nothing to do with the underlying JVM product? They are both fashion phones sold purely for their looks, with questionable insides, after all.

The Case For
The case for is slim. It primarily rests on the word of Guilhem, who doesn't actually give any personal details identifying him further (don't you just hate it when bloggers do that? etc). He'd have to work at SE or Esmertec to have that kind of info, as if SE really do licence Jbed they're much too embarassed to let Esmertec tell anyone about it. Esmertec instead seem to concentrate on no-name Asian OEMs, with a handful of questionable handsets from Siemens and LG as the big names.

You have to look hard for other evidence to support his assertion. The blistering speed of the MIDP2 Sony-Ericssons is down to their use of Jazelle (since 2004), and the performance of the FastBCC variant is much better than the conventional version on eg. the Chocolate - JBenchmark claims FastBCC runs on Jazelle processors too, so there is some connection. However the FastBCC version still has a number of bugs which the SEs don't, in things like the inflate algorithm used in PNG IDATs, so this isn't looking too likely.
(Note: I call this Jazelle version 'fastBCC' purely because the system Profile property reports it as Jbed-FastBCC, and other buggier slower devices don't... I have no idea which devices really use fastBCC vs fastDAC).

When Lenovo signed up to use Jbed the press release claimed "Esmertec's software has been commercially launched within 4 of the 5 leading handset brands worldwide" - on 1/1/'07 that would be Nokia, Moto, Samsung, SE and LG. LG we know about, the others...? Well, we'll consider this again shortly, but the release only says "Esmertec's software" and not explicitly Jbed so it doesn't mean as much as they want you to think it does.

And finally, Sony-Ericsson emulators are just WTK reskins - other Jbed licensees don't ship any emulators, which implies Esmertec can't be bothered to make them, which in turn does suggest a link, but a tenuous one. The SE emulator's 'THIRDPARTYLICENSES.txt', incidentally, does not mention Esmertec/Jbed at all and nor does LicenseAgreement2.pdf.

The Case Against
Firstly, it could just be mistaken identity - the Jazelle is a processor which runs a lot of the JVM bytecode natively on the chip, but it requires support software from ARM called JTEK. Sounds kind of similar, could be confused?

Also it is worth comparing the little things about the JVMs. All Jbed devices declare their Platform system properties as 'Jbed' or some variant - Sony-Ericsson give detailed handset information. SE support every JSR under the sun, with a huge number of filetypes supported under MMAPI etc - traditionally Jbed devices do not, instead focussing on a handful of JSRs and limited media support. Gilhelm suggests this is the sort of customisation a manufacturer must do to the Jbed JVM to make it useful, which SE does and LG can't be bothered with. Possible, but it's a lot of customisation work and surely other licensees would pick up on the JSRs that don't need much native support?
The one massive improvement SE would have had to have made to the standard Jbed as used on all LGs (fastBCC and the rest) is the complete elimination of the multiple compile / jar optimizing steps which take up many seconds on the LGs but are completely missing on Sony-Ericsson devices. Some might call this the only piece of evidence required, but I'll go on.

But the real killer is in the numbers. Esmertec were claiming in that Jan 1st 2007 press release that Jbed has been shipped on 76m devices ever. As a comparison, according to analyst iSuppli Nokia (#1) shipped 348m devices and LG (#5 and Esmertec's biggest acknowledged licensee) shipped 64.4m in 2006. For Nokia, the vast majority of those devices have to have Java; for SE, the percentage is even higher as they sell so few low-end devices. So even if as Esmertec imply 4 of the top 5 manufacturers have shipped at least one device with Jbed in, it was a minority device and could not be their main Java platform.

SE's Java platform has remained incredibly consistent in every way you can examine since their first MIDP2 devices on Jazelle back in 2004, and has been in almost every device except the barely-selling J200 series etc at the low-end and the niche top-end Symbian devices (which run on the rather shaky Monty JVM). So SE's share of those 76m devices would have to be well over half of the Jbed devices shipped if it's core platform (the one I always praise) ran on Jbed - note that iSuppli claim SE shipped more than 42m devices in the second half of 2006, at which point their platform was already over a year old.

Where would that put LG, with those 64.4m devices shipped in 2006? We know that many of their sales come from their home market and from BREW devices shipped in the US, but you could conservatively assume that maybe 1/4 of those devices - 16m - were Java devices running on Jbed (with maybe 1m of those Chocolates - LG don't reveal the split between the Korean, GSM/MIDP and CDMA/BREW versions but we can assume the 1.7m sold before July '06 covers them all). Their pre-2006 devices also shipped Jbed, and have since at least Q2 2003, the launch date of the really really bad G7100 I have in my desk (MIDP1 Jbed, don't go there); LG sold 44m devices in 2004 so overall you could conservatively expect a good 30m of those 76m Jbed devices to be LGs, and my gut says it'd be a higher number. That doesn't leave much room for all those Sony-Ericssons.

So I'm going to have to say that unless Gilhem can pull some pretty amazing evidence out of the bag, I have to assume he's wrong and SE run on their own Java platform based on ARM's Jazelle and JTEK products. Esmertec may have licensed some software component used somewhere in the system by SE and the others in the big 5, but I fail to see what it is and it must be so small as to have little destabilising impact on the rest of the platform. Gilhem, care to prove me wrong?

Clarification
There was the subtle implication in the phrasing of the original comment that I may be biassed against Esmertec/Jbed unduly. This is definitely not the case. I dislike the known confirmed implementations of Jbed purely because they are really really bad, as I outlined in my post. For all I know the company may in every respect except for the Jbed product be the greatest company in the world.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Flasher T said...

That's a lot of effort for an unsubstantiated rumour. ;)

3:54 pm

 
Blogger Guilhem said...

OK,

I tell you a bit more about myself and about how I got the info.

I was at 3GSM in Barcelona earlier this year and esmertec were demoing several SEMC devices on their booth (including the K800i, W710i, others)

This is public information even though esmertec have not issued a PR about it. I guess that SEMC do not want to go publicly out about their internal technology suppliers

I have no other pointer to give you than my own word, sorry... not my fault if product marketing guys at SEMC or esmertec are shy or paranoid :)

As for myself, I am new to blogging so don't know how to set my profile info. Any how, my background is in the software industry for mobile phones. You can check-out my employer's website at: www.open-plug.com

I think your blog is an interesting place to exchange views about our industry

5:48 pm

 
Anonymous raddedas said...

Ah Guilhem thankyou for providing more details - I was hoping you were from Esmertec so we could find out some interesting insider information but no worry :) I guess SE use whatever component it is that Esmertec have sold to 4 of the big 5...

8:08 am

 
Blogger Guilhem said...

Well, I am pretty sure it is JBed that is now embedded in the most recent SE models

A message that esmertec was also emphasising at 3GSM is that these devices use their latest execution engine embodiment called MVM standing for multitasking VM (whicj allows parallel execution of several MIDlets) and indeed that's what you have on the SE devices.

Moreover great effort has been put in the UI through e.g. the unique SE "application switching" button that allows the user to seamless switch back and forth between native apps and java apps, as well as suspend/resume java apps

I'll try to dig out some more substantiated and public info ...

8:42 am

 
Blogger Dean Bubley said...

I'd been pretty certain that SE was using Esmertec as well, largely because the K800i has a sort of multi-tasking Java engine, which as far as I know is a capability only offered by Esmertec at present.

Looking at the website, I wonder if "JBed Advanced" is a rather different animal from earlier variants of JBed, and thus more flexible/capable, but perhaps restricted to higher-end devices.

Dean Bubley

5:22 pm

 
Blogger Ed said...

By the way, jaztelle may not be the only thing that makes SE phones fast. They also use "video" memory to store images. The technical details are sketchy, but this memory is ment to be faster than normal memory and speeds up image manipulation.

11:21 am

 

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