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I am fairly new to Mathematica and don't have much experience with other programming languages, but I can already see that Mathematica and the Wolfram language are far easier to use than most others.

With this in mind, I was wondering about the possibility of building apps for iPhone and iPod through Mathematica. Basically is it at all possible to use Mathematica to build apps?

Even if it isn't possible to use Mathematica for iOS app development, what about using it to build programs for other platforms, like Windows, Macs, or browser programs?

I've heard a bit about MathLink and Workbench but I don't really understand what they do or how to use them. Also i understand that the Wolfram Cloud will be launched soon but don't know what it will enable us to do. I would appreciate it if someone could give me a brief answer, or point me in the right direction.

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It's a matter of what you mean by an "app"! If by that you mean a free-standing executable program that you start by (double) clicking an program item, or similar action, then no, Mathematica doesn't allow that. The closets you can come is use Mathematica to create a "Computable Document Format" (CDF) file with certain kinds of self-contained dynamic content that can be viewed/played with either Mathematica itself or the free CDF Player -- for now, just on a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. – murray Apr 27 '14 at 20:07
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Here are my few cents to have some food for thought. Can't fit this in a comment.

(1) I'd suggest indeed to take a look at the Wolfram Cloud preview and see that all tools to hook up computations to mobile apps will be there. Such functionality like listed below is specifically dedicated to that - for both: API hooks to your own mobile interfaces or complete start-to-end interface development with Wolfram Language (WL):

(2) Consider efficient design & prototyping. In this respect look at some famous cases. "Disney Animated" was selected by Apple as the Best iPad App of 2013 and it was designed with WL by Touch Press company and detailed here by founder Theodore Gray. Read that article to see the workflow. Quoting:

In order to create this effect in real time on an iPad, we of course needed to write highly optimized C and OpenGL code. But before we could do that, we needed to refine the algorithm and parameters through a series of prototypes and meetings with the visual effects supervisors at Disney, to be sure our implementation maintained the spirit of the original, even though it could manage only about a tenth as many snow particles. That prototyping would have been very painful to do in C code, but by building the prototype in Mathematica, I was able to make adjustments on the spot, and in one case almost completely rewrite the algorithm overnight, then take it back to them the next morning in much improved form. ~ Theodore Gray

(3) Large scale development example is Wolfram|Alpha where heavy computations and NLP run in WL server-side and together with data are hooked-up to Wolfram|Alpha App via API. Also think Siri which is an "iOS app" ;-) and is linked to Wolfram|Alpha.

(4) Don't forget about C code generation and tight integration with other systems - can come very handy during development:

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Thank you, @vitaly. I'll have a good read through all these resources. There's a lot of unfamiliar terms in them that I have to come to grips with first though. – Aron Apr 28 '14 at 0:19

The answer to your question is given in the comments. In condensed form the answer boils down to: for version of Mathematica up to V.9.0.1, it can not be done. However, we have hopes that some sort of CDF player will available for iOS in the near future, perhaps as part of the shortly expected V10 release.

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