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One To Watch: AeroGear, mobile Java sites without the pain

Elliot Bentley

A new JBoss project aims to make life easier for mobile developers working with traditional Java EE backends.

Launched in January this year, AeroGear is a project aiming to support mobile developers working with traditional Java EE backends, through JavaScript, iOS and Android libraries which, the promotional materials claim, “provides everything from a simple persistence layer to a security API and everything in between”.

At JAX London last month, Matthias Wessendorf – who has previously worked at Kaazing and Oracle, as well as leading the Apache MyFaces project – turned up to represent AeroGear and give a talk titled ‘HTML5 alchemy: the secrets of mixing JavaScript and Java EE’ (view the slides here).

After the talk, JAXenter caught up with Wessendorf, who explained how it’s very much aimed at a specific use case. “If folks are running existing traditional Java EE backends, mainly JAX-RS backends, and they want to get a mobile view [version] on top of that one without dealing with all the nasty details of jQuery and whatnot,” he says, “AeroGear is a good project to look at.”

Even more ambitious is direct input into wholly native apps. “It’s still early,” says Wessendorf, “but the project itself is working on delivering abstraction layers to get a convenient access from each platforms, like native iOS, Android or JavaScript – for REST communication, security, data management, synchronisation, etcetera.”

In his JAX London talk, Wessendorf described the options available to mobile app developers as native, web, hybrid and “hybrid+”, the latter displaying WebView pages able to hook into native APIs. AeroGear-based web apps are specifically designed to quickly integrate with Apache Cordova, which recently graduated as a top-level ASF project.

Yet Facebook recently scrapped their hybrid iOS app and replaced it with a faster native version, leading some to speculate that HTML5 isn’t yet mature enough to match up to expectations.

“On the internet, there were lots of complaints about it [Facebook’s implementation of a hybrid app],” Wessendorf argues. “If you do it wrong, don’t blame the tools.

“It’s all a trade-off, right? We know the web since ages, and if you use those standard techniques, you have a good amount of portability.”

Yet Wessendorf doesn’t agree that, even with unlimited resources, native apps are the best option. “It depends probably on the use case,” he says. “Probably some [app for] graphic transformation, even though the canvas engine is improving and improving and improving, probably things that are highly [complex] graphically are right now more better suited with native.

“While [when] doing some vanilla business application for existing REST backends, web is the way to go.”

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