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Ansca Mobile Updates Corona SDK For iOS, Android

Cross-platform mobile app development tools suddenly look much more appealing now that Apple has relaxed its developer rules.

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A week after Apple lifted developer restrictions that had left the future of cross-platform development tools in doubt since April, Ansca Mobile is releasing updated versions of its Corona SDK and Corona Game Edition mobile app development tool kits for both iOS and Android devices.

Technically, the release should be designated Corona 2.0 , given that the company released the 1.0 version last December. But Ansca Mobile, a startup funded by former Google and Microsoft executives, has decided to do away with the version numbering to emphasize its subscription model, under which users will receive new features on an ongoing basis.

The latest Corona SDK is more expensive than its predecessor ($249/year, up from $99; $349/year for the Game Edition), but is considerably more capable and stable. The ability to write code that can be compiled for both iOS and Android devices is alone worth the price of admission.

Game Edition adds support for the Box2D physics engine, which helps immeasurably if one is developing the sort of 2D-style game for which Corona is best suited. It also includes support for OpenFeint, a popular social gaming platform. The regular SDK can handle games too but is being repositioned as a tool for enterprise and business app development.

Corona projects are written in Lua and reference a set of APIs designed for 2D motion graphics. Lua is easy to learn as far as programming languages go; it doesn't require mastery of memory management or pointers like C does.

While Ansca Mobile's Web site suggests Corona projects can be completed with five times less code than projects created using other development tools, such generalizations are difficult. However, development speed is a common theme among the developer testimonials on Ansca Mobile's Web site and elsewhere.

Jonathan Beebe, co-founder of Beebe Games, on Tuesday posted an account of his experience using the Corona SDK to create Doodle Dash, a game that has sold over 100,000 copies through the iTunes Store.

With regard to the company's claims about development speed, he writes, "[I]t isn’t a bunch of subjective marketing hype -- it’s actually true. If you were to develop iOS apps using Objective-C vs. Corona, your development time would be MUCH higher… and much more frustrating I’d assume (no matter how experienced you are in Objective-C)."

Walter Luh, co-founder of Ansca Mobile and the company's CTO, said in a phone interview that Corona occupies "the sweet spot between performance, flexibility, and simplicity."

There are other cross-platform development tools out there, such a Unity, but Luh notes that it's not simple to learn or use. And other easy-to-use mobile development tools like Game Salad or Appcelerator can't match Corona's performance or flexibility, he claims.

Luh also says that Corona's ability to dynamically scale content across different platforms puts it light-years ahead of the competition.

Looking ahead, the Ansca team is keeping an eye on other mobile platforms and operating systems for Corona, which is currently only available for Mac OS X. Luh said the company isn't ready to make any announcements along these lines but added that Ansca pays close attention to developers' requests.

Luh estimates that there are about 1000 Corona apps in the iTunes App Store. The numbers of apps cross-compiled to Android is substantially smaller, around 50, owing to the recent implementation of Android support. But that number is likely to grow quickly, given the rapid growth of the Android platform.

Ansca says to expect the software toward the end of the day on Thursday.

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