There can only be One Mobile SDK

“Write Once, Run Mobile Apps Anywhere” say ex-Sun founders of Java SDK Codename One

Chris Mayer

A familiar motto from two Sun veterans who have founded a new Java mobile SDK, set to go toe-to-toe with PhoneGap

Two former Sun Microsystems engineers have reappeared in the Java space preaching a slightly modified version of the Java mantra of old: “Write Once, Run Mobile Apps Anywhere.”

Israeli company Codename One is cooking up a new SDK that will allow Java developers to write native applications across a number of mobile and tablet platforms through one codebase. So what marks this out from PhoneGap, other than being Java-based?

Well, their API claims to offer “a vast abstraction of mobile device platforms providing rich portable functionality”. The SDK supports iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows 7 and is designed to translate Java bytecode to C/Objective code, then compiles the resulting amalgam to native apps using Xcode on Mac machines. This according to the company creates iTunes-compliant applications, which could be its crowning glory.

The option to launch an application concurrently is incredibly enticing for any burgeoning startup, saving crucial time in the development process. It could also instigate defragmentation, as they claim to be able to create core components without having to enter into the world of native widgets. That’s a big plus point for some.

The two founders of Codename One are Chen Fishbein and Shai Almog, both considered hardened Java veterans – after all Fishbein kicked off development of the Lightweight User Interface Toolkit (LWUIT), which became the Lightweight UI toolkit for Java ME.  Probably the best grounding you could ask for a Java mobile cross-platform project like this.

Codename One has been knocking around for a few months now, but only in the past week has their media profile been pushed, and with that comes community praise and rage in equal measure. When you’ve been slaving away for so long tinkering with the product, you can be forgiven for that.

“Chen and I are thrilled to be releasing this transformational technology that is filling a growing demand among mobile developers,” Almog said in a statement, “The wasteful reality of having to develop the same app multiple times due to the variety of operating systems in the market is coming to a close. With Codename One, developers can write applications just once and run them everywhere.”

Although the SDK is still in beta, we’re excited to see what the company has prepared for us. They’ve already touted numerous Java 5 features, such as generics but what else does it have it store? Industry juggernauts have already been wooed, including such giants like Vodafone, Verizon and Intel all using it in production. It will also be interesting to see how it fares against the already established PhoneGap in the space. It’s going to come down to whether you’re dead set on using Java or not…

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