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Mobile app development tools: A buyer's guide

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Oracle MAF: A mobile application development tool

The Oracle MAF allows developers to create cross-platform Android and iOS mobile apps using Eclipse and JDeveloper IDEs.

Oracle's Mobile Application Framework (MAF) is a mobile application development tool used for the creation of cross-platform applications for Android and Apple iOS mobile devices. It features a number of integrated components that provide developers with a complete solution for app management. It is best suited for large corporations looking to develop and implement multiple enterprise-level mobile applications.

Oracle MAF can be accessed by developers in two integrated development environments (IDEs): Eclipse and Oracle JDeveloper. Both of these IDEs are open source platforms that allow developers to build applications using a Java source code. Java is an extremely popular and widely used Web design language; however, its use in mobile app development is not as widespread.

Building applications with Oracle MAF allows development teams to leverage their existing knowledge of Java. This eliminates the need to teach existing development staff more widely adopted cross-platform app development languages such as HTML5 or JavaScript, and it also eliminates the need to bring new resources familiar with these more widely used languages onboard. This, in turn, cuts down on costs and implementation timelines and allows for the creation of applications that development teams can fully understand and manage.

Because Java is not a native language for Android or iOS operating systems, its functionality on these devices comes from an integrated mobile-optimized Java virtual machine found in MAF that allows for the execution of Java 8 code as a native library. This enables developers to use a single source code to build their application for both operating systems, which MAF then translates and delivers as a .apk file (Android) or .ipa file (iOS) allowing the application to executing natively on the device rather than as a Web app.

Additionally, for access to specific device features (such as camera, email and GPS functions) MAF integrates an Apache Cordova development layer that supports Cordova plug-ins and provides Java API and a Cordova API for JavaScript. These integrated APIs and plug-ins further enable the Java-built applications to be run cross-platform and perform with native functionality. In addition to Java code, Oracle MAF also allows developers to design application user interfaces using integrated HTML5 and JavaScript APIs.

Oracle MAF has several other unique features to support developers. The integrated Oracle Application Mobile XML component provides developers with a set of more than 80 mobile-optimized user interface components. This lets developers design mobile user interfaces declaratively (rather than providing exact coding) if they so choose, which enables a more visual approach to app design and functionality and eliminates the need for writing low-level HTML5 and JavaScript code, all of which saves developers significant time and leads to faster app implementation.

Also aiding in faster development times is MAF's integrated Oracle Mobile Application Controller component, which enables the creation of a declarative layer to allow for a model-view-controller development architecture.

As previously noted, applications built with MAF execute on device. This is significant because this enables the application to run and store data offline, which provides the app's users with tremendous flexibility regarding when and where the app is used. Additionally, apps created with MAF feature encrypted SQLite database access to securely store data when the app is used while offline.

MAF is available for purchase directly from Oracle's digital storefront and through affiliated partners, and is only available as a full edition that includes all tools and functions. It is available with two pricing options: a one-time cost of $55,000, which provides access to an unlimited number of users; or $110 per user, per published application. It is also available for free to users of Oracle's Mobile Could Service, which is a mobile backend as a service offering that helps users easily and securely connect their mobile applications to enterprise systems and other cloud services.

Oracle MAF 2.1, the most current version available, added enhanced integration and security with the Oracle Mobile Security Suite, support for local notifications and richer data visualization. Support services for MAF are also available from Oracle, and cover a wide range of customer needs. The company also has its own YouTube Channel, Oracle Mobile Platform, which features instructional videos that cover various aspects of using MAF for cross-platform app development.

Although currently not available, Oracle says that app development capabilities for Windows devices will be available with MAF in the near future.

Next Steps

Matthew David outlines the factors to consider when choosing a cross-platform development tool.

HTML5 and JavaScript leave something to be desired when used for mobile app development.

Security is an influencing factor in mobile app development landscape.

This was last published in September 2015

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Buyer's Guide

Mobile app development tools: A buyer's guide

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