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Development for a native CDF player on the iPad

Posted 6 years ago
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I am a huge fan of the Mathematic CDF player. I would like to see it come to iPad.

In 2012 a working CDF player prototype was demoed by Wolfram for the iPad. link However, it never came to light. I heard that the iPads at the time didn't have enough processing power to run the CDF player efficeintly. Does anyone know if this is true? It seems that wolfram may have abandoned the idea of a native CDF player and is instead moving toward cloud computing as a solution.

I have a subscription to Mathematica Online. I stopped using it after a couple months of giving it a chance. For one, I find that it has too many glitches for me to work productively. It's an even worse experience the iPad using the Wolfram Cloud App. I know its relatively new, so I know it will get better, but for now its not worth my time.

It takes too long to compute results as it needs to call the wolfram cloud on every calculation which takes time. My biggest deterrent is that it doesn't have the functionality found in the Native CDF player when displaying Manipulate functions. For example, you can't rotate a graph using the mouse in real time and you can't move a slider while seeing the graph change in real time. I'm guessing this is because Mathematic Online has to make function calls for every change and its impossible to have continuous fluid motion. The processing power for iPads gets better and better every year. I would assume at some point (or maybe now?), there would be enough power to drive a native CDF player. So I don't see why Wolfram wouldn't keep pursuing a native player.

If Wolfram has abandoned the native CDF player, then it would lead me to believe that viewing Manipulates on the iPad will never be as good as they would be with a Native CDF player as we will always be limited by the time it takes to make calls to the Wolfram Cloud.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Is there someone here from Wolfram that can either confirm or deny if there is still plans to have a native CDF player for the iPad? If would love to use a CDF player on the new iPad Pro!

I'm not sure how the demo iOS player worked, but the main difficulty is that CDF relies on the Mathematica kernel, a very large and somewhat unwieldy piece of software. It has parts consisting of C, Java, and Wolfram Language code, and it would take ages to fully port. The Wolfram Cloud app avoids this problem by providing a lightweight frontend to a cloud-hosted version of the kernel, at the significant expense of speed. I don't know if work is still underway on a native CDF player, but for now it's probably just not possible.

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