Embarcadero unifies iOS and Android development within a single tool

Embarcadero's new Appmethod provides a way to compile a single program for multiple platforms, such as Andorid and iOS

Embarcadero's new cross-platform Appmethod IDE

Embarcadero's new cross-platform Appmethod IDE

With a new integrated development environment (IDE), Embarcadero Technologies is hoping to ease the burden of application developers who must prepare their creations for more than one operating system (OS).

"Appmethod is designed for developers who have to support more than one OS. Generally speaking, that is most developers today," said John Thomas, Embarcadero director of product management.

On Tuesday, Embarcadero will launch the first version of Appmethod, which the company previewed at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music and interactivity conference held earlier this month in Austin, Texas.

Appmethod will allow developers to write and maintain a single code base that can run on Apple iOS and Mac, Android, and desktop Windows platforms.

This initial version of Appmethod uses the Object Pascal programming language. In its first scheduled update for June, Appmethod will also allow programmers to use the C++ language.

In many cases, today's enterprises programmers are expected to write mobile applications for both Apple iOS and Android devices, in addition to writing desktop applications for Windows and possibly Apple Macs as well, Thomas explained.

In many cases, this means that applications must be written from scratch for each OS, and often in different languages and libraries. "They end up having to manage multiple teams and code bases, and it is very costly to keep up the quality and features across the platforms in this way," Thomas said.

Embarcadero is not the first tools vendor to attempt to offer cross-platform development environment targeted for mobile platforms. Xamarin offers a plug-in for Microsoft Visual Studio for instance. Oracle offers a cross-development extension for its Application Development Framework as well.

Other approaches typically involve the use of JavaScript and other Web development technologies, which can lack the features, and speed, of natively compiled code, Thomas argued. "We do this with modern object languages that are compiled down to the CPU," he said.

Appmethod provides a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that provide the common functionality across the different platforms. This allows the developer to compile the same source code for different platforms, though the programmer can customize each program to a platform's specific look-and-feel.

If a programmer wants to use a feature that one OS has but the others don't, he or she can call that OS's native API directly from within Object Pascal

In many cases, this won't be necessary, as Windows, iOS, OSX and Android all offer similar functionality, even if accessing this functionality differs syntactically from platform to platform.

"In theory, you could write an application that has 100 percent code comparability between all of them," he said. "We present a common paradigm between them."

The package includes enterprise database connectors for Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 and Informix. It also includes over 100 user interface controls, such as buttons, list views, and tab management.

To help apps exchange data with external sources, Appmethod recognizes SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), REST (Representational State Transfer) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) protocols, as well as the App42, Kinvey and Parse third-party API (Application Protocol Interface) services.

Embarcadero also offers a set of paid middleware services that can be used in conjunction with apps built with Appmethod. Enterprise Mobility Services can offer caching, in-memory data management, and basic data analysis.

To date, Embarcadero has been most well known for its software and database development tools, though the company also offers tools for system modeling as well.

The company's first product, released in 1993, was a cross-platform SQL IDE, called Rapid SQL. It is also known for its Delphi IDE for Object Pascal, both of which it acquired, along with the C++Builder IDE, from Borland Software in 2007.

Individual developers can purchase Appmethod for US$299 per year per platform. The enterprise version of Appmethod costs $999 per year, per developer, per platform. A free version of Appmethod is also available for personal use, for development on the Android platform. Additional Enterprise Mobility Services pricing is based on the number of devices that use the services.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
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