Appcelerator has announced the release of a public preview of Appcelerator Titanium, an open-source platform for building desktop and mobile applications using a common set of Web technologies.
"[It] is easiest if you think of [Appcelerator] as an open Web version of Adobe AIR in that it is a run-time that has extended APIs that allows developers to create applications using Web technology," said Dion Almaer, co-founder of Ajaxian.com.
As with Adobe AIR, Titanium, unlike traditional Web applications, which are limited to operating within the browser, enables developers to create applications that are able to read and write local data on the desktop and interact with the operating system. In particular, Titanium enables developers to build desktop Web applications that can operate both online and offline.
Titanium is built on top of a number of leading open-source technologies, including WebKit, Gears and Chromium, and is designed to work on Windows, Mac and Linux desktop operating systems. The Windows and Mac versions are available immediately, and the Linux version will be available in January 2009. Titanium is distributed under the Apache Public License.
"It is built gluing and molding WebKit, Chromium and Gears in very interesting ways indeed," Almaer said of Appcelerator. "A lot of tough work was done in getting the glue to bind to graphics tool kits on various platforms, and then the work to tear apart Gears and allow it to take in new modules which implement APIs such as native windowing [transparent custom chrome], direct file system access, database integration and storage, desktop notifications, application and system menu control, and geo-location."
"Developing for the desktop had shifted down in priority in recent years," said Michael Cote, an industry analyst with RedMonk. "But desktop development has recently picked up more interest as rich Internet application [RIA] technologies have pulled down the Web development experience to the desktop. Increasingly, developers have the option to use known Web frameworks to expand into a previously unreachable area, the desktop."
Although Cote said it is too early to tell whether Titanium is a "game changer," it is definitely a technology to watch, particularly for the enterprise.
"In the RIA world, Adobe is currently king simply because they've been at it so long and control the tool set," Cote said. "That said, they lack being fully open source when it comes to [the newly named] Flash Platform. This may not have been a problem for their existing, Flash-centric developer base, but as Adobe expands out into the 'enterprise' and traditional developer world, it's becoming a problem.
Proof-of-concept applications with full source code, including a Twitter client and a contact manager, are available for download at http://titaniumapp.com/demos.