Nokia has joined the open-source Eclipse Foundation, and will head a project to build a mobile tools framework based on Java.

Eight full-time engineers from Nokia will be put on Eclipse where they will complete tooling support for J2ME and produce tools to help create mobile Java applications. Nokia said it will donate several components of its existing Java tools technology as well as develop new software for both MIDP (Mobile Information Device Profile) and CDC (Connected Device Configuration) Java applications. Both open source and commercial tools are expected to arrive later this year or early next year.

The phone manufacturer said it will use the Eclipse tools platform for its products and also actively contribute to several existing Eclipse projects beyond the scope of Java.

Nokia product manager D'Arcy Salzmann said: "The overwhelming majority of applications that have been built on J2ME are games, but what we've noticed in the past year-and-a-half is a growing number of enterprise applications" - with mobiles acting as front-end clients to enterprise applications such as sales-force automation systems.

Eclipse sees Nokia's participation as extending the organisation's reach into the mobile market. "More and more enterprise IT [shops] are looking for ways and technologies to enable them for mobile use, and having these tools at Eclipse will really help developers achieve that goal," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director at Eclipse.

Industry analyst Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates, concurred. "What it means is Eclipse now gets to expand its footprint beyond the traditional computing environment, and it gets to reach out to the mobile device."

While acknowledging that free open source offerings can impact sales of traditional commercial tools environments, basing technologies on Eclipse helps make customers more comfortable with less-established players, Hurwitz said. "Customers are very happy when the vendors they deal with adopt Eclipse because it reduces training costs.". It also reduces the risks if a tool ceases to exist.