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WorkLight is offering coders free access to an evaluation version of its multi-platform development suite, billed as a means of building, deploying, and managing applications for iPhones, Androids, BlackBerries, Windows and Mac desktops and notebooks, and the web.

Access to the evaluation suite for development purposes is completely free, and developers are granted unlimited access to the company's tools, including the WorkLight Studio, an Eclipse plug-in that lets you couple web-based code with native code across multiple platforms; the WorkLight Server, which offers caching, clustering, and load balancing; and the WorkLight Console, a web interface for tracking and managing applications.

"No features are turned off," Worklight COO Kurt Daniel tells The Reg.

But once you actually deploy an application, you pay an annual subscription fee or perpetual license based on the number of application end users. Prices start at $4 per user per year, and volume discounts are available.

WorkLight pitches its platform as a way for web-happy developers to deploy applications across various devices using technologies they're familiar with, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. "We allow people to create one software application using common web skills and them run it across various environments, like the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and even desktop environments," Daniel tells us.

But unlike a tool such as Appcelerator's Titanium, Worklight does not recompile these web languages into native code. In essence, it dovetails web code with pre-built "adapters" that tap native APIs across various environments. The suite also lets you code directly in Objective C for the iPhone.

"WorkLight client-side components access the iPhone APIs only in the manner documented by Apple, and do not use or call any private APIs. Developers are free to call the documented iPhone OS APIs directly using Objective-C code. WorkLight does not create an intermediary translation or compatibility layer that prevents that, therefore it is fully in line with Steve Job’s vision and does not hinder any future platform developments and enhancements," the company says.

The platform also offers Objective C libraries that expose iPhone services to JavaScript and HTML code; JavaScript libraries; and Objective C and JavaScript templates meant as starting points for applications development. On the iPhone, JavaScript code is executed by solely by the iPhone's WebKit-based browser rendering engine.

The WorkLight platform is based on Phone Gap, another multi-platform development tool. This spring, when Steve Jobs changed the iPhone SDK terms of service to bar translations from languages he doesn't approve of, there was speculation that this would ban the use of suites such as Phone Gap or Appcelerator's Titanium. But it now appears that Jobs was merely exercising his personal animosity for Adobe Flash.

WorkLight's free evaluation suite is available through its new WorkLight Dev Zone, which also offers a community forum, training resources, sample applications, and documentation. ®

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