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Eric Bruno

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Particle Code for Mobile App Freedom

October 05, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Guy Ben-Artzi, co-founder and CEO of Particle Code, to speak about their new cross-platform SDK for mobile application development, called the Particle Platform. In brief, Particle allows you to write one code-base in a supported language of your choice, and target one or more mobile device platform for your application. The Particle Platform handles porting the single code-base to targeted devices, and the result is a set of native applications for those devices.

A Little History

Ben-Artzi was co-founder of Mytopia, a leading social games company that was acquired earlier in 2010. Mytopia was the first multi-player game development platform in the smart phone space, launched in 2006. Not only did it support multiple mobile platforms, Mytopia spanned the web and mobile spaces with its integration with Facebook. When 888 Holdings acquired Mytopia, the co-founders maintained the rights to the tools and platform software used to help port mobile applications natively across mobile operating systems. This code served as the basis for Particle Code.

How Particle Works

The Particle Code middleware and tools automate the porting process for Java, C#, and ActionScript3 applications to native code for the target mobile platforms. The platform currently supports all of the major mobile operating systems available today, with support for Internet-based TV as well as game consoles coming soon.

To begin, you choose a supported language (i.e. Java), target a mobile platform, and Particle Code uses the native language, compiler, and API for that platform to port your code into a native mobile application. The end result is an application that is indistinguishable from one that you wrote with that platform's native APIs to begin with. Therefore, Particle Code has never had an issue getting applications approved for Apple's iOS platform. In fact, with Mytopia, many iPhone applications have been available through Apple's App Store using this platform for some time now. This, combined with Apple's recent loosening of the rules around how iOS applications are built, all but removes this concern completely.

Some Limitations

Although Particle works well for application business logic and other non-UI code, it cannot port UI components across mobile platforms. This limitation was intentional, as Particle Code was not looking for a cookie-cutter approach, which could potentially lead to less-than ideal mobile applications across platforms. Instead, Particle has created a set of tools that let you begin your native UI development by targeting device capabilities and form factors. This includes screen size, form factor, touch interface support, and so on.

Getting Started

Two weeks ago, the Particle team revealed the Particle Platform at the Demo conference and won a DEMOgods award. When launched, the Particle Code platform will be available completely free to developers, and although not entirely open-source, portions of the platform will be released as open source over time. Sign up today to preview the Particle Platform at particlecode.com, to be released soon.

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