Build iPhone apps in a Flash with Corona

Build iPhone apps in a Flash with Corona

Ansca_CoronaIf you want to try your hand at iPhone app development but don’t feel confident with your coding skills, a group of ex-Adobe employees may have just the solution for you.

Corona, from Californian startup Ansca, is a new iPhone software development kit that allows developers with creative ideas but a lack of technical skills to build apps in a similar way to using Adobe Flash. Experienced coders will also find value here. Ansca claim their SDK can cut development time from weeks to a matter of days.

While Ansca claim Corona is easier to use than Apple’s own SDK, it still offers developers access to iPhone hardware components like the accelerometer (for screen rotation) and graphics acceleration.

With no iPhone support for Flash on the horizon, demand for Corona is likely to be high. While it’s still in Alpha testing, developers keen to give it a go can join Ansca’s Early Adopter Programme for free. A handful of apps built with Corona are already in the iTunes App Store. The currently available apps include a Sudoku game and a ‘virtual coral reef’. They’re pretty basic but they show that the SDK works.

Ansca will be presenting Corona in public for the first time this Friday at the HOW Design Conference in Austin, Texas. The first full version of the SDK is slated for release in Autumn. Pricing has not yet been announced.

It’s exciting stuff but what does an experienced developer make of it? Our very own Ralf Rottmann is skeptical about Corona and whether the apps built with it have any kind of long-term future in the App Store.

“Given the large opportunity the iPhone platform opens, we are currently seeing new candidates in the “iPhone app generators” category almost on a monthly basis. Personally I’ve yet to see a solution that really convinces me. There sure is a space for tools that simplify multi-device deployment stressing the old write-once run-anywhere promise. Titanium Developer and PhoneGap do a pretty good job in that area. As much as I understand the little information available about Corona, it’s targeted at the iPhone only. Frankly, I’m not sure about the size of the market.

Here’s why:

  • Apple has designed the iPhone SDK based on years of experience in supporting a fantastic Macintosh developer community. In fact, it is already not that complicated to build even complex iPhone applications. Many great apps have been developed with roughly two weeks effort. The question here is: How much more speed improvement do you need to justify a business case? And: if the business case doesn’t account for twenty days of engineering, you might have to ask whether you’ve got a business case at all.
  • Flash on the iPhone would be great for one simple reason: The vast amount of trained Flash developers out there, that could immediately port their solutions to the device and leverage their existing knowledge. Corona might embody some of Adobe Flash’s paradigms and best practices, but it will ultimately be a new technology, with new tools to learn and a learning curve that requires upfront investment. With great iPhone talent at reasonable pricing at hand, why would you invest into another niche technology?
  • Finally: Like it or not, Apple controls the platform. Apple defines who comes in and who stays out. Recently Apple started to ban PhoneGap based apps from the App Store. Quite obviously Apple doesn’t want Flash as a competitor to their own SDK. If they think the same about Corona, they’ll find ways to identify the Corona roots in any native app and systematically kick them out.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much enthusiastic about a vibrant third party eco systems surrounding the iPhone platform. I’m just not sure whether Apple is silly enough, to let others step into their cleverly protected new walled garden.”

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