CoronaCards Aims To Jazz Up Mobile Ads

Corona Labs hopes to make sophisticated interactive advertising easier to create and implement across multiple devices by making Corona SDK APIs embeddable.
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Corona Labs, maker of a Lua-based mobile development framework called Corona SDK, on Thursday introduced a version of its software called CoronaCards that can be embedded within other development frameworks to provide a cross-platform graphics layer.

At first glance, the ability to embed CoronaCards within another mobile development framework such as Appcelerator, PhoneGap, Unity, or Xamarin appears to be redundant, like adding two slices of bread to an existing sandwich. Unity, one of the most popular ways to create cross-platform games, already handles graphics quite well.

But other popular development frameworks like Appcelerator have evolved with a focus on business apps, and CoronaCards could be used to provide Appcelerator developers with access to CoronaCards' animation and physics APIs.

"We're hearing from people using Appcelerator and PhoneGap [who] wish they could do richer things but can't justify going to another platform," said David Rangel, COO of Corona Labs, in a phone interview.

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CoronaCards might represent competition with former colleagues, too: The co-founder of Corona Labs, Carlos Icaza, left the company in 2012 to form Lanica, with funding from Appcelerator. Lanica makes a JavaScript-based mobile development framework called Platino that enhances the graphics capabilities of Appcelerator's Titanium product.

But CoronaCards brings more to the table than rivalry. Its cross-platform graphics and animation capabilities could make sophisticated interactive advertising easier to create and implement across multiple devices.

Rangel suggests CoronaCards can help create mobile ads that function as miniature apps. This can be done through HTML and JavaScript or through native code, but such rich ads could still run into problems that made them function differently (or not at all) on different mobile devices.

CoronaCards promises a common foundation that functions on various devices and platforms without technical incompatibilities. That's what Adobe tried to provide with Flash, only to be thwarted by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs back in 2010 and by its inability to address technical shortcomings. But the desire to write something once and run it everywhere remains.

Corona Labs claims that ads powered by CoronaCards outperform traditional model ads in engagement and conversion rates. And that's how CoronaCards is likely to be used: for mobile advertising. An ad network, for example, could use CoronaCards to create one SDK that works on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and other platforms, rather than maintaining multiple platform-specific SDKs.

CoronaCards is now in closed beta testing, and pricing has not yet been announced.

On Friday, Corona Labs also previewed a future feature for Corona SDK: the ability to run code built with the SDK in a modern Web browser. Currently, Corona SDK allows developers to build for Android and iOS. The ability to create Windows Phone builds should be available in a few months.

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