Sybase preps cross-platform mobile runtime engine

Hoping to unify a fragmented market for developers, Sybase will introduce a cross-platform runtime environment for mobile devices, said Raj Nathan, the company's chief marketing officer.

Nathan spoke yesterday at the Sybase Federal Symposium in Washington.

With the new software, codenamed Unwired Enterprise Platform, "You ought to be able to develop once" and deploy an application on multiple devices such as cell phones and embedded devices, Nathan said.

He added that the market for mobile devices is fragmented. As a result, if an organization uses more than one type of device ' such as a Windows Mobile client and a Symbian cell phone ' developers have to rewrite programs to run on different platforms.

Even a basic function such as moving a cursor from one point on the screen to another differs radically between Windows Mobile and the Symbian OS, said Irfan Khan, Sybase's senior director of engineering.

"We're creating a level of abstraction that allows us to develop and deploy independently of that," Khan said.

The Sybase platform could be viewed as an application server made for cell phones and other portable devices, Nathan said. The program can be written once to the runtime environment, which will take care of the complicated process of interacting with the operating system and hardware.

The engine will offer connections for back-end databases via Open Database Connectivity drivers, Java Database Connectivity drivers or Web services-based connections. In addition, adapters will be offered for specific applications. The engine will also include a set of device-management applications and messaging services. With the messaging services, developers can use a set of application programming interfaces to have their back-end applications send alerts to mobile users whenever a predefined set of conditions arises.

To date, there have been a number of attempts at fostering cross-platform development for mobile devices. Google plans to release its Android mobile OS this year, which was designed to work on a variety of phones. Java Mobile Edition, also designed as cross-platform, has been available for several years.

Sybase will bring its expertise in database, back-end data services and middleware connectivity to its product, Nathan said, adding that Android will be one of the platforms on which the Sybase engine will run.

As far as potential applications, any agency with employees who collect a lot of information on the road or in the field could benefit from Sybase's tool, Nathan said. The agency would not be locked into one type of device to run an application, and the platform could be used to extend standard database-driven applications to mobile devices.

Sybase will release the software in the second half of 2008, Nathan said. The developer environment will be available as a plug-in to Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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