Appcelerator Titanium Previewed As Adobe AIR Alternative

Dennis Byron

Increasingly in this space in the new year I am going to introduce you to new and renewed enterprise-software technologies and products about which I am previewed on an almost daily basis. For example, in June I introduced you to Transitive, in July it was Sterling Commerce, in September, Lexalytics, in October, ZenDesk, and so forth. Instead of one a month, in 2009 I will be cranking it up to one a week, I hope.


For example, on December 8 I met with Nolan Wright, chief technology officer of Appcelerator, who talked about the just announced public preview release of Titanium. Titanium is a platform for developing and building desktop and mobile applications using a common set of Web technologies including HTML, CSS and JavaScript The "Web" applications can be deployed to multiple platforms, including a desktop or mobile device, as well as browsers. Titanium is designed to work on Windows, Mac and Linux desktop operating systems. The Windows and Mac version of Titanium are available immediately and the Linux version will be available in January 2009.


Titanium should provide a richer experience than most traditional (whether traditional means Web 1.0 or Web 2.0, I'm not sure) applications because the browser was only built for reading and sharing documents. On the other hand, Titanium desktop applications are able to read and write local data on the desktop and interact with the operating system. That also means resulting applications can run both online and offline.


My first reaction is that the offline part goes against the grain of the cloud computing wave hitting the information technology market. But Nolan Wright feels Appcelerator's Titanium is more complementary than competitive with the cloud. Resulting desktop or mobile (that is, non-browser-based) applications will still surely take advantage of services and APIs in the cloud and the community he hopes to see grow around Titanium will take advantage of the cloud for distribution.


Speaking of community, Titanium - like Appcelerator's other product, an SDK for building rich Web-based applications - is distributed under the Apache 2 open source license, and Appcelerator hopes to see a large active community generating the applications mentioned above. The use of the Apache license (as opposed to, for example, the viral GNU General Public License) lets the community take the multiple-platform functionality in multiple directions even if they "want to extend the functionality of the Titanium platform to meet unique requirements." Even if they want to compete with Appcelerator.


Speaking of competition, Nolan sees Titanium growing in functionality to match Adobe AIR. Key features include database integration, application and system menu control, proof of concept applications with full source code available, including a Twitter client and a contact manager, in addition to the features mentioned above. Maybe not coincidentally, Adobe announced an agreement December 8 with Springsource, providers of the Spring framework, to more tightly integrate Spring and Flash. AIR is part of Flash but is also distributed separately and for free to end users but is not licensed open source.


Appcelerator, which also announced that it received more venture funding on December 9, is in start-up phase and has not fully formed its business model.

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