RealTime IT News

Open Source Development For iPhone Takes Shape

UPDATED: NEW YORK -- There is no shortage of hype around developing for the Apple iPhone. Moving beyond the hype there are also real tools, among them an open source tool from Ajax vendor Aptana.

In a standing-room-only session at the iPhone Summit segment of the AjaxWorld conference, Kevin Hakman, director of product marketing at Aptana, captivated the audience with his demonstration of how easy it is to develop Ajax applications for the iPhone.

Aptana has a few projects that can help iPhone developers, among them is the open source Aptana Studio IDE , which is licensed under the GPL. Studio is a full Ajax development environment and is available as a stand-alone as well as an Eclipse plug-in that can integrate with Eclipse-based IDEs.*

The new Apple iPhone Development Plugin, currently in beta, works with Aptana's Studio and provides developers with an interactive console as well as preview support for iPhone applications.

The preview support included with the Beta plugin comes by way of Aptana's iPhone preview, which shows users what the application will look like and how it will behave on an iPhone.

Hakman also noted that the plugin now works with Apple's iPhone emulator, released as part of the iPhone SDK release. Apple's iPhone emulator is essentially a full iPhone running in software.

Hakman cautioned the audience that Apple's emulator currently is available only for the Mac, while the Aptana Studio with iPhone plugin will work on Windows, Linux and Mac.

As part of his demonstration, Hakman built a simple application and then showed it running inside of Apple's iPhone emulator. He explained that Aptana Studio includes options that enable developers to take full advantage of the iPhone user interface for sizing, resizing and left-to-right toggling. The result is that developers will get a real sense of what their applications will look like inside of iPhone.

To make it even easier, Hakman's demonstration was all done without the benefit of having a live Web connection. Rather he relied on the embedded Web server that is part of the Aptana Studio and allows developers to test applications locally, even without an externally Web connection.

The Aptana approach to iPhone development isn't entirely complete, though. In response to a question from InternetNews.com, Hakman admitted that Studio does not provide for an automated port of an existing application to run on the iPhone.

"There is no automated optimization, but if you view the application with Studio what you can do is see errors and get a quick sense of where the application is failing and see what needs to be done," Hakman said.

*An earlier version of this story had erroneously reported Aptana's company name in some instances as "Apatar," the name of an open source data integration vendor and application. InternetNews.com regrets the error.