Java-to-iOS just keeps getting easier

Third-party tools are getting even better at enabling developers to use their Java skills to build iOS apps despite Apple's ban

Java developers have long been on the outs with Apple when it comes to running their wares on iPhones and iPads. But thanks to a growing roster of third-party tools, developers can forget about Apple's Java ban and get cracking on porting their apps to iOS devices.

"There are already a number of ways you can make Java run on iOS," such as through third-party open source frameworks or Oracle's ADF (Application Development Framework) Mobile, says Henrik Stahl, senior director of product management at Oracle. It is Java's JIT (Just-In-Time) compilation capabilities that still are barred from iOS units, Stahl says.

ADF Mobile functionality due next year will enable single-source applications to be packaged and deployed to either iOS or Google's Android platform, according to Oracle documentation. ADF Mobile is an HTML5- and Java-based mobile development platform intended to enable new or existing Oracle applications to run on mobile devices. ADF Mobile apps contain a lightweight Java Virtual Machine that passes data to an HTML5 view to render the user interface.

Google's open source J2ObjC translator, meanwhile, takes Java code and translates it to Objective-C source code, Apple's code of choice for iOS devices. Google intends for the translator to accommodate non-UI code, such as application logic.

Two other companies, Vaadin and Codename One, have services enabling Java developers to get their applications on Apple's devices. Codename One performs cloud-based cross-compilations from Java to C/Objective-C.

"The Java development/debugging is done entirely locally, but when building for the device, the cloud portion does all the heavy lifting," says Shai Almog, CEO of Codename One.

Vaadin offers a Java framework for building Web applications for iPad. A Java abstraction is provided on top of HTML5.

"The enterprise will ask you to develop for iPad," says Joonas Lehtinen, CEO of Vaadin, pointing out the urgency in building for the device, given its immense popularity. "The only question is how."

While Apple remains unimpressed with Java on its popular devices, at least other parties have stepped up to fill the gap and bridge Java to iOS. Java developers are not left out in the cold when it comes to using their skills to build applications for iPhone or iPad.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.