Following Famo.us, Ludei takes a swing at PhoneGap too

Ludei CocoonJS boasts better deployment of HTML5-based mobile applications, with speed and dev tools as selling points

Not long ago, San Francisco startup Famo.us announced it had a better way to deliver mobile apps than PhoneGap, using some of the same core technology but with its own secret sauce drizzled on top.

But Famo.us isn't the only company trying to knock PhoneGap out of the box. Among the contenders is Ludei, another San Francisco-based company (with a dev team based in Spain) offering a new twist on Apache Cordova, the underlying technology of PhoneGap.

Ludei's offering, CocoonJS -- now in its 2.0 incarnation -- is meant to help developers deploy mobile apps using HTML5 as broadly as possible and get the best performance from them. Game developers comprise most of Ludei's existing audience, but the lessons learned there clearly apply to how to accelerate the performance of mobile apps generally.

Like Famo.us, Ludei deploys a copy of the Chromium HTML5 render, called Webview+, so that apps don't have to contend with the default Android webview and be saddled with all the performance and fragmentation issues it brings. And like Famo.us, Ludei offers a cloud-hosted compilation and deployment service so that the developers don't need to do much more than write their app, upload it to Ludei's server, then publish the results to an app store.

But unlike Famo.us, though, Ludei doesn't require writing the app in question to use a specific API to improve its performance. HTML5 apps can be deployed through CocoonJS as-is, without rewriting. Ludei also allows compilation to and deployment on both desktop and Web platforms.

CocoonJS also uses two different approaches based on the needs for the app in question. For apps that make use of the entire browser's DOM, CocoonJS provides Webview+, but for apps that use HTML5 Canvas and little else -- that is, games -- Ludei offers Canvas+, a technology it claims increases canvas performance by up to 10 times.

As further proof, Ludei offers up a series of demos, including one that runs WebGL on one's own Android phone or iOS device. I tried the WebGL demos on my HTC One and iPad Mini, and apart from a bit of hesitation during the loading process, they were impressively fast and responsive. Unfortunately, one of them, the "Doom3 Gangnam Style" demo, glitched on the HTC One and ran at only 8 fps on the iPad Mini. Granted, that particular demo came with a caveat about being particularly GPU-intensive.

Another sign Ludei is going after the existing user base for PhoneGap: Existing Apache Cordova/PhoneGap projects will work with CocoonJS. Some 20,000 developers, mainly game makers, are already on board and deploying software through Ludei's system.

But Ludei's platform includes many other features -- such as analytics, push notifications, in-app purchasing, and access to hardware sensors -- meant to appeal as much to conventional app developers as to the game makers who are Ludei's current core.

In large part, Famo.us turned so many heads because it exploited certain behaviors within the browser to bypass the slowness of the DOM, then used Apache Cordova to package and deploy the results consistently. Ludei's approach hints at many more such tricks that have yet to be exploited to not only speed up mobile apps but to simplify their creation, debugging, and release.

This story, "Following Famo.us, Ludei takes a swing at PhoneGap too," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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