As mobile device usage continues to grow, so too does the need to extend enterprise applications to mobile platforms.
Oracle this week is expanding its own mobile developer initiatives with the release of the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) Mobile Client. The new tool enables developers to extend their Java-based enterprise applications to mobile platforms including BlackBerry and Windows mobile.
Duncan Mills, senior director or product management at Oracle told InternetNews.com that Oracle has a very large investment in Java and building out business applications as whole. As part of that effort, Oracle has the Application Development Framework, which to date has been primarily targeting rich Web user interfaces as well as desktop interfaces. In the past, Oracle has also had a mobile browser, which enabled Java applications in a limited fashion. Now Oracle is moving to the next step of mobile application enablement.
“ADF Mobile Client steps onto the mobile device itself,” Mills said. “We’re now pushing the user interface and the flow control down onto the mobile device.”
Mills added that by pushing functionality onto the phone, it provides additional capabilities beyond what the mobile browser enabled. As code is now running natively on the mobile device, developers have access to the physical hardware on the device. As such hardware features such as a barcode scanner or GPS can now be accessed by Java applications.
“The developer experience is essentially identical for building for mobile as it is for the web, the only difference is the form factor and how much real estate is available,” Mills said. “We provide a WYSIWYG development environment that builds the abstracted version of the user interface.”
Mills explained that the user interface is defined in metadata and when a developer deploys to a particular mobile device, the application is rendered using the native controls of the device.
The ADF Abstraction Layer
The abstraction layer is also critical to how Oracle plans to continue to grow ADF as a platform technology.
“As we add more device support, the programming model won’t change,” Mills said. “The developer can keep working with a component based abstraction of the user interface and doesn’t have to be concerned with the details of the APIs on the target mobile device.”
The user interface isn’t the only thing that ADF abstracts. Mills explained that ADF has the concept of data controls which allows a developer to put a common face on any type of data.
“So if someone is building out a Web page for example where data is combined from a relational database or a Web service, they’re all hidden behind a data abstraction,” Mills said. “The person building out the user interface can literally drag and drop the collections of data and the business logic they want into the user interface they are constructing.”
Mills noted that with mobile the same thing happens, as well as enabling the developer to access the mobile devices hardware capabilities. So instead of a developer needing to understand the APIs for a barcode scanner, that is all abstracted as part of the data controls approach.
In terms of target mobile devices, Mills explained that on the BlackBerry, there is a native Java virtual machine which enables the Java applications to run. For Windows mobile devices, there is a virtual machine that Oracle provides as part of the framework. Other platforms including Android and Apple iOS could follow in the future.
“For developers, they are just dealing with an abstracted component model, so from the point of having to build the interface they don’t have to worry what the implementation is,” Mills said. “Our general philosophy is that platforms and browsers will change, but we need to make sure the main model that developers are using will stand the test of time.”