Oracle Delivers Mobile Java Framework for Cross-Platform App Creation

Oracle this week released its long-awaited framework for Java mobile development. The Application Development Framework (ADF) Mobile Client is designed to allow developers working in Oracle's JDeveloper IDE to build enterprise apps for mobile platforms using the skills they already have.

The ADT Mobile Client is a declarative development space comprising a mix of visual editing tools and Java code, explained Oracle Senior Director Duncan Mills. It's based on the same programming paradigm as Java Server Faces (JSF). Developers use the tool to define a device-independent representation of the application -- a single, generic application definition -- which is then rendered on multiple device types using the native UI for that platform.

"The developers have pretty much the same experience they would have if they were building JSF Web applications," Mills told this site, "including WYSYWIG page editors, components they can bring onto the page, declarative date binding and expression language, but instead of building out a Web page, they've building out a metadata definition for a native user interface on the mobile device."

Mills runs the product management team at Oracle and is responsible for the ADF Framework, as well as the JDeveloper and NetBeans IDEs. The new Mobile Client is an extension of the ADF, he said, which is a Java EE framework for building enterprise apps. Oracle sees the ADF as a "productivity framework" for developers, which provides an abstracted approach to accessing business services. It's also a tool that Oracle uses extensively internally, Mills said.

"We use it for everything within Oracle now," he said. "Everything from our Fusion applications, which we sell, to the internal Web applications we build for our own use." 

The ADF Mobile Client takes the ADF same programming, backend business services access and security provided by the framework, and pushes part of the application onto the device as a native app, Mills said. It also supports disconnected access to enterprise apps from mobile devices, mobile app rendering in the native look-and-feel of each device, and integration with on-device services (calendar, contacts, peripherals, etc.).

"This approach makes it very easy for developers who already have skills for building Web apps to build and orchestrate pages for a native app," Mills said. "It eliminates the need for them to specialize on a particular class of device or toolkit."

Oracle is also billing the ADF Mobile Client as a tool for repurposing existing enterprise services and extending them into mobile devices. The dev environment comes with design tools and data -- synchronization services for offline data synchronization, which, among other things, allows a real-time data link can be established declaratively through via Web services. Data can also be cached locally, Mills said, which supports hybrid online/offline mobile apps.

"We're anticipating that a lot of the applications customers build with this will have a degree of online/offline access -- the application needs to be usable when it's off-grid, or some kind of hybrid mode."

Apps created with the Mobile Client can also access local device hardware (cameras, GPS devices, etc.) from Java code embedded in the application.

Oracle first announced plans to develop the Mobile Client in October 2009, when it unveiled a developer preview at its annual OpenWorld conference.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].