Intel’s Multi-OS Engine Allows Developers to Create Native iOS or Android Apps with Java
Many of us have likely come across on app on a different platform that made us wonder: “why in the world can’t I download this already?”
I’m sure you’ve heard of one such app that’s all the rage lately, Prisma. Prisma launched on iOS on June 11 and was immediately a smash hit. A little over a month later, Prisma was finally publically released on Android. One month turnaround isn’t so bad, but many popular apps have taken much longer to make their way over to the other platform. But why? Quite often, it’s simply due to resource allocation. iOS users still lead the pack in terms of in-app purchases compared to Android users. So if you’re a business trying to make money and you have limited funds to invest in creating an app, it makes sense to initially focus on iOS.
Over time, however, several development toolsets have been released to simplify cross-platform development. One such popular toolset is called the Xamarin Platform, recently acquired by Microsoft, which enables developers with skills in C# to create mobile applications for Android, iOS, or Windows Mobile on their Mac or Windows PC environment. Developers who are most comfortable with Java were looking forward to using RoboVM to code for iOS, until that project was shut down this April. So what else can Java developers use? Fortunately, Intel has been working on a project these past few months called the “Multi-OS Engine“, available today only as a Technical Preview, that is aimed at enabling Java developers an easy way to cross-develop for both iOS and Android.
Meet the Multi-OS Engine, by Intel
The advantages of using the Multi-OS Engine for mobile app development are plentiful, according to Intel. For starters, you are able to build apps on either a Mac or on Windows if you use a server. Multi-OS Engine is a stand-alone plug-in that integrates with Android Studio. Developers looking to code for iOS can start a project for an Android app in Android Studio, then use Multi-OS Engine’s tools to configure the project as an iOS app. You can access many iOS-specific platform APIs that are otherwise unavailable in Java, and you can create bindings to generate Java code for common Objective-C and C libraries. The code that you write will be compiled to native ARM or x86 code. No knowledge of Objective C is required.
Intel claims that the performance of an app created using Multi-OS Engine is on par with a native app. As for creating the app’s UI, Intel states that Android developers should continue working through Android Studio while iOS apps can be designed using the UI designer provided in Multi-OS Engine. Given the demise of RoboVM, many developers are understandably worried that the project could soon be abandoned, which would frustrate any user who would potentially invest a lot of time and effort getting behind the project. Intel states that its Multi-OS Engine is poised to be released as an open-source project, but sources have yet to drop. For now, at least, the project is free.
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