JavaFX on iOS: Dead on arrival?

Developers applaud Oracle's intent but see long odds on Apple allowing JavaFX apps to run on iOS

Oracle's efforts to enable developers to run JavaFX software on Apple iOS devices could run afoul of Apple, if Apple's past rejections of Java on iOS are any guide. But a potential showdown could be a ways off, as it remains to be seen exactly how far Oracle goes with its plan and whether the arrangement will actually ruffle any feathers at Apple.

Oracle turned developers' heads last week, demonstrating a JavaFX-based game running on an IOS system at its JavaOne conference in San Francisco. The demonstration coincided with the release of JavaFX 2.0, an update of the Java-based multimedia application platform targeted at a variety of devices and form factors.

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In the past, Apple has balked at allowing the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) -- the core technology enabling Java to run on various platforms -- on its devices. But Oracle believes it is being compliant in its efforts to back JavaFX on iOS.

"The way this works is by linking the JVM into the program," says Adam Messinger, vice president at Oracle. "We know of a lot of iOS programs that are built this way with other languages besides Objective-C already today [and that] are being pushed through the [Apple] App Store."

Messinger added, in Oracle's configuration, the setup "looks like a statically linked libc linked into the program and that whole thing is installed on the phone." The combination of JavaFX and iOS has not been discussed with Apple, he says. But Apple has given clearance to run JavaFX on the Macintosh, and it has greenlit Oracle's HTML5 efforts pertaining to iOS. Oracle last week showed its Project Avatar for dynamic rich clients, which has linked HTML5 and Java to iOS.

Developers weigh in on JavaFX's iOS prospects

Oracle's JavaFX-on-iOS plans remain in an early phase, with Oracle using the conference demonstration to gauge interest in supporting JavaFX on devices such as iOS, Android, and Windows 8. Apple did not respond to repeated requests for an interview for this article. But iOS application developer and author Christopher Allen, founder of the iPhoneWebDev developer community, has his doubts that Apple would approve of Oracle's efforts.

"I would be very surprised," if Apple approved, Allen says. "It goes against everything they've been trying to move toward."

"Their basic position is that they don't want the iPhone or ideally any of their platforms to be the least common denominator," Allen says. There has been a concern that interpreted languages will not offer the level of performance Apple wants for its devices, he explains. Also, the company specifically does not want its customers beholden to other company's deadlines and fixes, Allen says: "That's been kind of the problem with Flash."

Adobe is taking a similar tack as Oracle in getting Flash applications on iOS, with the Flash Player also not welcome on iOS devices. Adobe enables Flash applications to run on iOS via the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), a superset of Flash Player for running Flash outside of a browser.

Meanwhile, Oracle's JavaFX-on-iOS efforts have been lauded by the Java community.

"I think it's extremely beneficial," says John Scattergood, software architect at Navis, which makes software to manage marine container terminals. But he added that he has a lot of questions about how Oracle is getting JavaFX onto iOS, given Apple's restrictions on code execution.

This article, "JavaFX on iOS: Dead on arrival?," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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