Another contender

Tabris taps into Java mobile app market with first major release

Chris Mayer

Another Java toolkit for native mobile app development has arrived – is EclipseSource’s Tabris up to the task?

The flurry of projects dedicated to creating cross platform mobile apps, without having to escape the confines of Java, has really accelerated in recent months. From client side-focused options such as Codename One and J2ObjC to server side solutions such as ICEmobile, plenty of companies have recognised the imperative need for a Java bridge to mobile, and crucially as quick as possible.

Following three years of development, another has entered the fray. Created by EclipseSource, Tabris hit its first major release yesterday, proclaiming to be “the first Java-Toolkit for the cross-platform development of native mobile Apps”.

While this may not necessarily be true, Tabris enables users to write iOS and Android applications in a single codebase. The technology sits on top of RAP, EclipseSource’s Remote Application Platform, renamed in November to acknowledge a move beyond the browser.

Through RAP’s JSON protocol, developers can rapidly write web applications for the browser. Tabris builds upon this concept, by adding an iOS and Android client, which translates RAP protocol message into its native counterparts. The latest release also includes the Tabris UI API, a UI framework that borrows heavily from Java’s SWT API and allows the creation of a frame for the app.

The heavy reliance on RAP (given that Tabris is an extension of it) is a turnoff to those unwilling to learn the ropes of the platform, Some might also be concerned by the lack of clients for Windows Phone or Blackberry. When the project was initially conceived in April 2010, the focus was solely on iOS and Android clients. Tabris’s server-side developer Holger Staudacher told that this was because they were “the big players” at the time, but there are plans for “future clients.”

Tabris is yet another project targeted towards core Java developers looking for a quick mobile fix, without pushing them too far into new waters. But rather than rushing a major release, the Tabris team have spent the past year making sure that the support is adequate, with 14 major milestones since January 2012. Whether it can make headway in an already competitive marketplace is another question.

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