Skip to content

Appcelerator – Brief Notes

Brief notes are summaries of briefings and conversations I’ve had, with only light “analysis.” This one covers a briefing I had last week with Appcelerator’s CEO Jeff Haynie.

Appcelerator is continuing to see strong pull in the mobile & tablets space. Their users are interested in developing in JavaScript using the runtime and framework Appcelerator provides (Titanium) to avoid native coding required on various devices, like Object-C on the iPhone.

Of note is that JavaScript is one of the (now) “blessed” languages for iPhone development. Of course, as CEO Jeff Haynie stressed many times, it’s not just iPhone, but other hand-held devices and tablets. Indeed, I asked if he thought there was going to be a significant growth in the use of hand-helds and tablet in the near-term – definitely, he said.

The recent mobile platform survey Appcelerator did with IDC reflects much of these desires.

Developing mobile apps in JavaScript

It seems Appcelerator’s momentum has continued at a good clip. The idea of providing a runtime to develop mobile apps in JavaScript (and other “web technologies”) makes sense at this point. I hear from so many developers who at least think of JavaScript as a legit language, if not one they lust after to code more in, rather than switching between JavaScript on the front-end and whatever “real language” they use for the rest of their application stack.

From my conversations, mobile developers seem to think well of Titanium. While it may not be splendid for game development (that, as with desktop applications, requires performance and features that often require native coding and other framework busting tasks), I’ve heard the sentiment several times that Titanium is especially good for social/geo-location driven apps…which is a fine market and space at the moment.

Anecdotally, they come up often on the short-list of mobile platform frameworks – along with Nitobi’s PhoneGap – while there are several others that have been having a good go at it like Sencha Touch and Rhomobile. Eventually, large vendors will have to snap up some of these frameworks or form deep partnerships. Most vendors have had little success (or even tried, really) to create mobile app frameworks, preferring to stay in the backend, as with IBM.


We talked about the return of client/server, introduced by people developing mobile applications that are hooked up to the cloud – call it “client/cloud,” if you like. This is a popular refrain for application development stack folks like Appcelerator, and it seems to be matching up. I asked why people want to do native apps (rather than just web applications where all the logic is hosted on a server – “in the cloud” – and browsed on the device). It’s to get access to all the native features of the device, Jeff said. Those native features could be things like multi-touch, geolocation services, the camera, microphone, even data like the address book and other applications if possible, and so forth.

On this topic, see WaveMaker on the same topic in a recent RedMonkTV interview, including good commentary on how this fits into enterprise IT.


The other interesting angle is layering in various services for use by developers (such as Titanium Analytics) and in the application. You can think of these as wired-up middleware and databases chock full of data and built to scale up. Someone like Austin-based Famigo has a service for use in the app along those lines: the networking needed to wire-up family members who can play games and use other apps with each other in Famigo-based apps, like tossing around a hot potato. Rather than every app developer running their own service, I’m increasingly seeing providers like Famigo and others provide these kind of services in the cloud.

Appcelerator announced an interesting service today that takes geo-coded data from its mobile apps and creates interesting visualizations of that data. The idea is that you might develop apps that include geo-data, like giving customers coupons, and then you track where those coupons are redeemed to figure out how your coupon campaigns are effecting micro-regional sales. At least, that’s one example in this excellent “Pizza Land” demo:

The point here is that they’re delivering something beyond just a framework (Titanium, in their case), but also a service used by The Business to tune their business. Essentially, Appcelerator is providing a back-office/marketing service that’s enabled by their mobile framework. A nice – and I mean this in a good way – enterprisey feature put within reach of anyone.

To generalize beyond Appcelerator, these kinds of services are another side of that “open/service” model (for lack of a better phrase) we’re starting to see more of: taking advantage of the dynamics of open source, often with actual open source, and then monetizing around a hosted/cloud-based service that developers use and pay for. A recent example is Apigee, as covered here, CouchOne, and the ambitious business model of OpsCode.

Analytics are a RedMonk favorite for monetizing, but you can start to see all the potential open/service models when you try to chart various pieces of middleware and database options to a Platform-as-a-Service orientation (Stephen recently went over the hiding in plain sight “middleware for the cloud” portfolio Amazon has built-up).


Disclosure: Appcelerator has been a client in the past, while Nitobi/PhoneGap, Apigee, OpsCode, WaveMaker are clients.

Categories: Brief Notes, Development Tools, Programming, The New Thing.

Tags: , ,