Sun Veterans Create SDK for Native Java on the iPhone

Codename One, an Israel-based startup founded by two former Sun Microsystems engineers, is developing a new software development kit (SDK) designed to allow Java developers to create native applications for multiple mobile/tablet platforms.

Still in beta, the company's namesake SDK (free download here) supports development on iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows 7, among other device platforms.

The tool is Java-based, open source and lightweight. It's designed to translate Java byte code to C/Objective-C code on the company's cloud servers, and then to compile the resulting source code to native applications using X-code on cloud-based Mac machines. The result, the company says, is iTunes-compliant applications.

The SDK combines IDE plugins, a visual design tool, simulators for phones and tablets and an API. The company describes its API as "a vast abstraction of mobile device platforms" combines with "rich portable functionality."

According to the company, developerscan use Codename One to create all components from scratch, instead of using native widgets, helping to avoid fragmentation. The company argues that this approach also supports more accurate desktop simulation of mobile apps.

The company's two founders, Chen Fishbein and Shai Almog, have some notable experience in this area. Fishbein began developing the Lightweight User Interface Toolkit (LWUIT) as an internal project for Sun. The project was launched to address the challenge of writing "appealing cross platform mobile applications," according to the project summary.

Almog joined the effort, which was announced in 2008. Sun open sourced the project, licensing under the GPL with ClassPath Exception. LUWIT, better known as the Lightweight UI Toolkit for Java ME, is now a subproject of the Mobileandembedded project.

"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."

The Codename One SDK is still in beta. The company plans to add "very extensive" Java 5 features in an upcoming version, including generics, enums, and annotations, among others. It can be downloaded free from the company website here.

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].