Ruby apps development readied for Android

The tool set being prepared will enable the building of business apps like mail clients

Builders of the JRuby version of the Ruby programming language are working to enable development of Ruby-based business applications for the Android handheld platform, a leader of the JRuby project said on Monday afternoon.

A tool set featuring libraries and application-packaging capabilities along with speed enhancements to JRuby itself are in development, said Charles Nutter, JRuby architect at Engine Yard. JRuby is an implementation of Ruby for the Java Virtual Machine.

"Android runs Java, and anywhere that Java goes, JRuby can go, so we've been working on Android support for Ruby," Nutter said. JRuby already runs on Android via the Dalvik JVM, but further improvements are needed to enable application development, Nutter said. Currently, only simple systems like an interactive console can run on Android via JRuby.

If the project comes to fruition, applications could be built for Android, such as a Twitter client or perhaps a personal information manager or mail client, he said.

"We'd like it to be possible to build any application [with JRuby] that they would build with Java on Android. That's the goal," he said. The project, though, has just started and its release will be demand-driven, Nutter said. The tool set would be added to JRuby itself.

Android handhelds are becoming more popular, Nutter noted. Motorola, for example, introduced its Cliq Android device last week.

Nutter and colleague Tom Enebo recently left Sun Microsystems to carry on with JRuby development at Engine Yard. Sun is in the process of being acquired by Oracle, which fostered an uncertainty about Oracle's commitment to the JRuby project, Nutter explained.

"We really didn't have any evidence either way," about whether or not the project would be picked up once Oracle took over Sun, he said.

With the merger proceeding, JRuby developers at Sun could not talk about future endeavors, said Nutter. "That certainly put a damper on our plans," as far as talking about the project itself, he said.

Meanwhile, Nutter and colleagues will conduct a JRuby technical conference, called JRubyConf, in Burlingame, Calif., November 22,  beginning the day after the RubyConf event in the same location.  The JRuby core team will be featured along with sessions on  topics such as Android support. Although the conference already is full, interested persons can get on a waiting list to attend, Nutter said.

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