These are exciting times in the mobile development space, especially for followers of RemObjects work. Whilst the likes of Xamarin and Embarcadero pursue their cross-platform abstractions, with varying degrees of success, RemObjects have been focussing on delivering genuinely native solutions and the long term vision that underpins their compiler architecture is proving itself in their ability to react Swiftly [sic] to the changing development landscape.
RemObjects have, up to now, largely focussed on delivering great compiler and language technologies, leaving Microsoft and Apple to take care of the heavy lifting involved in providing an IDE, plugging their toolchain into VisualStudio and Xcode where appropriate. However, for a while there have been hints that something was afoot within RemObjects in this space themselves, and this week the covers came off of Fire, which has now entered public beta.
Fire itself is built using RemObjects technologies so it is not only an interesting development but also a concrete example of the capabilities of their products. But what is it ?
Quite simply, Fire is a Mac Native (OS X) IDE, supporting all of the platforms and all of the languages that RemObjects themselves now support. For platforms this of course means:
- .NET (and thus WinRT / WinPhone)
- Java (and thus Android)
- Cocoa / CocoaTouch (i.e. OS X and iOS)
Xcode and Visual Studio are not removed from the mix entirely. When working with xib files, Fire launches the Xcode Interface Builder tools. When working with xaml in a .NET project, Fire only provides access through Finder, presumably leaving you to find your way to it with Visual Studio.
IMHO this is not great problem. Not only is it very early days in the development of Fire, when working on a .NET application it is likely I think that a developer will choose to remain within the Visual Studio IDE for such work, with all of the capabilities for working with .NET project files that this provides. Fire clearly makes more sense when working on iOS / OS X projects and in that context, not having to switch from a Windows VM to the host OS X environment when working with certain project files is clearly a boon.
For Android projects neither Xcode (!) nor VisualStudio offer much that Fire itself does not, so this is perhaps the one area where developers will simply choose which they prefer.
Not Only But Also
For languages the beta announcement of Fire included something of a surprise, with the list of supported languages being extended once again:
- Oxygene – a.k.a RemObjects Pascal
- Hydrogene – a.k.a RemObjects C#
- Silver – a.k.a RemObjects Swift
Yes, that’s right, RemObjects now support the new Swift language from Apple. But of course since Silver sits atop RemObjects compiler technology this means that you aren’t limited to only iOS and/or OS X with RemObjects Swift. RemObjects Swift can also be used for .NET and Java/Android projects as well !!
Having said that, whether it was a problem in the beta release of Fire, or merely indicative of the very early stages of development in this area (Silver has currently only been pre-announced), currently it seems that Fire is [somewhat ironically] only able to create Java/Android projects using the Swift language. I haven’t yet tried the latest beta of the more “traditional”, VisualStudio based Elements to see whether the Swift support is any further advanced in that environment.
It is far too early yet to do a meaningful comparison of Fire against Visual Studio or Xcode which aside from anything else are obviously more mature products, and I do find myself wondering whether it is an advisable move for RemObjects to spread themselves into this space and how much of their efforts will be consumed in further developing this IDE. But as long as they can do so without taking their eye off of the compiler and languages ball, then it can only add to their strengths and the way that they have responded so swiftly to, um, Swift, suggests that this is certainly not a concern.
I have said it before and no doubt will again. Yet I continue to be surprised at how accurate and yet both understated the observation actually is: These are seriously interesting and exciting times for RemObjects.
Long may it continue! 🙂