Sun Vets Release Java SDK for Native Mobile Apps

Codename One, an Israel-based startup founded by two former Sun Microsystems engineers, today announced the first release of its flagship software development kit (SDK) for Java developers building mobile applications. The Codename One SDK is designed to allow developers to build native apps on multiple mobile operating systems, including iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows 7, among other device platforms.

Codename One is a free, open source, solution for building native mobile apps using Java. 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 The Codename One bundle combines an IDE plugin, a Client Library, a visual design tool, simulators for phones and tablets, Build servers and cloud provisioning services.

The company has been working on the Codename One project for about a year, and previewed it in an open beta program last year. The company claims more than 10,000 downloads of the tool during the beta, and that the platform has been used to build more than 1,000 native mobile apps so far.

"We say we've been working on it for a year, but really we've been working on it for about six years or so," Codename One co-founder Shai Almog told ADTmag. "We started working on it when I was a contractor at Sun and Chen was an employee. Eventually that project got open sourced, but the problem at Sun -- and later at Oracle -- was that the focus was on Java 2 ME and tools like that. We tried to move in a different direction, but the companies were never oriented toward mobile. Sun was always a server company first, and everything else later. Oracle is an enterprise company first, and everything else later. They don't really get mobile, so we decided we had to quit and take it to where it should be."

Company co-founder, Chen Fishbein, and Almog are probably best-known for their work on the Lightweight User Interface Toolkit (LWUIT), which Fishbein began developing 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. Then Sun open sourced the project, licensing it under the GPL with ClassPath Exception. LUWIT is now a subproject of the Mobileandembedded project.

The mobile world is still in the very early stages of its evolution -- the "dancing hamster" stage," Almog said.

"Everyone is just making a mobile app, something that presents the company in the mobile space, rather than an app that does something useful," he said. "You get a lot of junk, things that are external-facing, but that don't provide any actual value."

But that situation is changing, fast, he added. Big companies in particular are embracing mobility in increasingly significant ways.

"They say that every company is a software company today," he said. "We're actually seeing every company become a mobile company."

Codename One is offering a free version of the SDK, as well as Basic, Pro and Enterprise versions. This release does not support the full Java language specification. In an effort to keep it small and efficient, things like reflections are not supported, though they may be in future versions, the company says. But users are not limited to CLDC, and may use a subset of Java 5. Other JVM languages, such as Scala, JRuby and Jython, are not currently supported.

More information is available on the company's product Web page.

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].