We live in a world of two operating systems, and I don’t mean macOS and Windows: Today’s operating system war is happening right in your pocket. It’s Android vs. iOS for smartphone supremacy, and anyone who develops apps knows they need to be available on both to reach as many people as possible.

For most companies that means hiring two developers: One for Android and one for iOS. That doesn’t come cheap, however, and raises the question of how valuable it really is to have apps in both ecosystems.

SEE: Job description: Android developer (Tech Pro Research)

One possibility that has long been a topic of conversation is to translate Android apps into iOS ones (and vice versa). The potential has always been there, but in most cases it necessitated a lot of additional learning for your programmers, longer development cycles, and unpredictable results.

Mario Kosmiskas thinks he has a solution.

Enter MechDome

Kosmiskas has a long history of developing for Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung. Last summer he started working on MechDome part time in an attempt to solve the problem of cross-platform development.

“I wanted end users to not know whether they are interacting with an app that was created with the Android platform,” Kosmiskas said. MechDome was designed to be just that. All the services outside an app that are called up–the keyboard, contacts, the calendar, notifications–are iOS ones. The code that gets you there is complex, but the results should be simple, complete integration.

SEE: Stack Overflow founder Spolsky: The three skills every software developer should learn (TechRepublic)

Android developers will find that they don’t need to do anything except upload an APK file to the site and convert. The new iOS file is compiled in seconds, according to Kosmiskas. The entire system was designed to take the difficult work away from developers: All the work happens in the cloud so there’s no need to learn new tools, languages, or APIs.

iOS users who want to download an app run through MechDome don’t need to worry about Android malware either. Kosmiskas sad that malicious Android code is useless on an iOS device since the two systems are so different. Even if the code gets left in place it won’t be able to do a thing.

The catch

The initial beta version of MechDome does have some limitations, though they aren’t expected to be permanent. As of right now apps need to meet the following criteria:

  • They have to be Java based–native and shared libraries are both out.
  • They need to be compatible with Android’s open source API–Google Play services are proprietary and the MechDome team hasn’t discussed use with Google yet.
  • Apps can only be compiled for API levels up to 22. Sorry, Marshmallow and Nougat apps.

Beyond that all apps are welcome. Don’t worry–if yours don’t qualify right now they probably will in the future.

Beta begins now

MechDome is taking beta applications now, with invitations set to go out this week. Hundreds of apps have already been submitted, so there’s no telling how long the wait will be.

MechDome will be a pay service once it goes live, but prices have yet to be set. Now’s your chance to try it for free, so if you’ve been thinking about building a version of your Android app for iOS now is the time to check MechDome out.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. MechDome, entering public beta now, can reportedly convert Android apps to iOS completely automatically.
  2. There are some limitations to what can currently be converted: apps must be Java based, use no shared or native libraries, use Android’s open source API, and be compiled for API level 22 or older.
  3. MechDome will be a paid service later on but is free during the beta.

Also see

Why every developer is an open source developer now (TechRepublic)

Google launches Android programming course for absolute beginners (ZDNet)

Apps every iOS 10 and iPhone 7/7+ user should check out today (TechRepublic)

For privacy and security, change these Android settings right now (ZDNet)