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Ansca Mobile Releases Corona For iPhone Development

Flash designers and other developers now have a new bridge to world of mobile apps.
Ansca Mobile, a start-up founded by engineers with experience at Adobe and Apple, on Monday released the Corona 1.0 Software Development Kit (SDK), a tool for rapid iPhone application development.

The company also announced that it had received $1 million in funding from Merus Capital, a venture capital firm founded by ex-Google and ex-Microsoft employees.

"We will bring in more world-class engineers to help us deliver on our vision," said Carlos Icaza, Ansca Mobile co-founder and CEO, in a statement. "Our mission is to lower the barrier for developing mobile apps and making it accessible to a much wider range of developers, not just traditional programmers."

The Corona SDK has been in limited beta testing for several months. It aims to provide an easier path to iPhone development than programming in Objective-C, the primary language Apple uses for software development.

Available for $99 per year and as a free 30-day trial, Corona caters to designers and programmers seeking something simpler than Objective-C, the sort of developers who use Flash today.

That's no accident: Ansca's founders, Carlos Icaza and Walter Luh, are both former Adobe mobile engineers who worked on Flash Lite.

Like Flash, Corona excels as a tool for creating 2D games and graphically-oriented apps.

Developers of 3D games would be better served by a tool like Unity 3D or by sticking with Apple's Xcode IDE, OpenGL, and Objective-C. Unity 3D, however, is considerably more expensive and requires a Unity-branded splash screen at its lower price point.

Corona does not charge any per-app royalty or impose any branding requirement.

Corona currently facilitates iPhone app creation, but Ansca says that support for other smartphone platforms is in the works. A video posted by the company on YouTube shows Corona running on a Nokia phone running the Symbian operating system.

Programming in Corona is done using the Lua language, which is used extensively in Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom software, in embedded systems, and for scripting in games like Blizzard's World of Warcraft.

Lua is not only relatively easy to learn but it's also lightweight. According to the company, the minimum size of an iPhone app built with Corona is 300 KB, compared to 8 MB for Adobe's Flash CS5 beta (which can generate iPhone app builds from Flash content) and 10 MB for Unity 3D iPhone Basic.

This matters because apps greater than 10 MB cannot be distributed via the iPhone's built-in App Store; they can only be made available through the iTunes App Store. Apps under 10 MB thus have greater distribution potential.

Corona remains a work in progress: Native iPhone Controls and in-app purchase support have yet to be implemented. It is nonetheless a fast, capable development tool that has already helped a handful of apps get into Apple's iTunes App Store.

In time, expect to see Corona apps on other mobile devices.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).