Only Java allowed

Cross-platform mobile toolkit Codename One jumps out of beta

Off the back of 100,000 downloads, Codename One has unleashed the first stable version of their mobile development platform for Java developers.

Arriving back in June 2012 in beta form, the Java SDK from the Tel-Aviv startup generated plenty of intrigue, allowing developers to write native apps for a variety of mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

This normally isn’t possible in a single codebase, but Codename One keeps true to the Java motto of ‘write once, run anywhere’. Unlike competing cross-platform mobile toolkits, the platform avoids using HTML5 and other technologies in favour of Java.

By avoiding using native widgets, users must craft components from scratch, which is a big drawback - although Codename One put a positive spin on it by insisting that this approach enables them to avoid fragmentation.

Co-founders Shai Almog and Chen Fishbein, well known for their work on Sun Microsystems’ Lightweight User Interface Toolkit (LWUIT), have decided that after six months’ development and feedback, the time is right to release a stable version. The company claim that with over 1,000 native apps built so far, Codename One is one of the ‘fastest’ growing toolkits of its kind and, even more controversially, “on par with native OS toolkits”.

“We have been thrilled with the success of our beta launch and are very excited to release the much-awaited 1.0 version,” explained Almog.

Speaking to JAXenter in September, Almog was confident that the Java community would “embrace” this new approach to writing mobile apps.

“I think that the pain faced by developers is very obvious and many want to solve it [...] I think our product and its potential speak for themselves. I don't think anyone has an offering remotely like ours.”

The Codename One plugin is available for two of the most popular IDEs in the market, Eclipse and Netbeans, and can be downloaded for free alongside enterprise pricing.

The platform has a shot of becoming an important tool in a developer’s arsenal, yet it may have arrived too late, lost in the noise of PhoneGap and Appcelerator. However, Codename One‘s impressive growth in six months does suggest there is room for a Java-only alternative.

Chris Mayer

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