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Google offers tool to bridge Android and iOS app development

Recently, the Google released the tool with the aim to make it easier to port the software between two major smartphone platforms, by converting Java code for Android into Objective-C code that can be compiled to run on Apple iOS devices.

Google’s Tom Ball in a post announcing the tool declared that J2ObjC is not a Java emulator but instead converts a Java classes to Objective-C classes that directly use the iOS Foundation Framework.

The tool doesn’t claim to make writing mobile apps a completely cross-platform affair. Developers who use it to translate their apps will still need to write the UI code in Objective-C using Apple’s iOS SDK. However, the developers can code their core non-UI functionality in Java, then compile versions of those portions of their apps for both Android and iOS from the single code base, rather than maintaining a separate code tree for each platform.

In fact, Ball revealed that they can use the same Java code to develop the web-based versions of their apps using the Google Web Toolkit, which can translate Java Code into JavaScript to run in the browser. Code functionality would remain same for all versions because they would be based on the same source code. Google also revealed that j2objc works with the most build tools, including Xcode and the translation from Java to Objective-C, is totally automated. No additional editing of the tool is necessary.

J2ObjC supports the full Java 6 language and the key runtime features include exceptions, generic types, threads, reflection and their anonymous classes. It even does the perfect job of modeling Java-style memory management in Objective-C.

To build and use the system, developers will need a machine running Mac OS X 10.7 or higher with Xcode 4 or higher and JDK 1.6. As for now, the project is running between alpha and beta quality with the initial release given number 0.8 as an indication of its release status.

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Hiren is an IT business consultant and blogger. His expertise includes diverse technology platforms, like Microsoft, Java, PHP, SharePoint, Open Source, Big Data, BI, and Mobile.