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Startup's iPhone SDK Steers Clear Of Apple's Objective-C

Ansca's Corona takes advantage of the Lua scripting code to compile into an iPhone application that can be sold at Apple's App Store.

Ansca, the maker of Corona, an easy-to-use software development kit for iPhone applications, posted the following notice on its Web site Tuesday, as it made the first version of the kit available:

"Due to overwhelming response, we are experiencing server overload. Please stay with us..."

Startup Ansca, founded by CEO Carlos Icaza and CTO Walter Luh, both former Adobe mobile software employees, is experiencing a little too much success on the first day of its launch of an iPhone development kit. Icaza and Luh are trying to free developers from Apple's Objective-C conundrum by giving them a simple scripting language in which to develop. The scripting code, called Lua, compiles into an iPhone application that can be sold at Apple's App Store.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs adopted Objective-C as the preferred language for his Next Inc. workstation company, and Next later brought Objective-C inside Apple when it was acquired. But few C, C#, or C++ programmers have any training in its peculiarities; it has "a steep learning curve," Icaza said in an interview. An alternative is Corona.

"I hate being a n00b. So I'm just going to get over and say that I am completely lost when it comes to XCode/Cocoa (Apple developer frameworks that use Objective C). I also am not so keen on Objective-C. Can anyone point me in the direction of maybe a book or two?" a befuddled developer asked at the developer site on March 17.

"For anyone struggling with XCode/Objective-C, give Ansca Corona a look," urged Trae Regan, a central Florida iPhone application developer who blogged on the release of the SDK today. "It's a Lua-based iPhone Development Framework that looks to be very easy to use."

The Ansca development framework brings a JavaScript or Adobe Flash ActionScript type of language to iPhone applications. The Corona development kit provides sample code, documentation, and a code debugger for Lua developers. It includes an iPhone simulator that lets developers run their code on their workstations to see how it looks on an iPhone-like screen.

When the developer has his Lua code the way he wants it, he submits it to the Ansca Web site, where it will be compiled into an iPhone application ready to submit to Apple's App Store.

Lua is a scripting language that originated in Brazil and is known for its ease of use, Luh said in an interview. It's able to implement Flash-like qualities in applications -- that is, give them a visually rich flow of events through a time sequence.

Corona also takes advantage of the iPhone's accelerometer support and Open GL-ES support for speeding up displays of graphics.

Ansca's development of Corona has been in stealth mode for more than a year, with Tuesday marking the coming-out phase for the San Mateo, Calif., company. "We didn't want a legacy-language liability," Icaza said. "Lua is fast and light weight and uses little memory."

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