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AppsWorld Europe 2011 Roundup

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After the huge success of the Asia and North America dates of the AppsWorld Series tour, AppsWorld Europe 2011 arrived at London’s Olympia Conference Center last week, on 29th and 30th November. appsworld-header.png With talks by over 100 speakers, from innovators in the business and technology spaces such as British Airways, eBay, Layar, Mozilla, Telefónica, PayPal, Rovio Mobile (Angry Birds) and Spotify, it is not surprising that the event was popular. It attracted almost twice the number of delegates as the previous meeting did in New York, with more than four thousand in attendance. appsworld-titanium-crew.jpg The first day set the tone. Being one of only fifty exhibitors, we wondered whether Appcelerator’s modest booth could accommodate all the attention. Indeed, it may not have been possible if it had not been for three of our Titans, senior members of Titanium’s developer community, who had generously offered to take time out from their respective business commitments to support us. Ketan Majmudar, Trevor Ward and Boydlee Pollentine outdid themselves, articulately explaining how Titanium works and the benefits they have experienced. We’ll cover some of their main discussion points.

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What is Titanium?

As our existing developers know, Titanium Mobile is a platform that allows developers to programme mobile applications in arguably one of the most widely-known languages. A small JavaScript engine distributed with each app runs this JavaScript code on the device, which makes calls to a single Titanium Application Programming Interface (API). A native “layer”, unique to each target mobile platform (iOS, Android, etc.), translates these calls directly to the equivalent commands of the respective native API. This means that the app can access extensive functionality on the local device, whether it be the database, network, camera, accelerometer, User Interface (UI) controls on-screen – but much more besides. This layer is what makes Titanium apps truly native, unlike other solutions on the market, and what gives them a native feel and behavior that is indistinguishable from their native counterparts.

Does Titanium have limits?

Many delegates were interested to understand what their options would be if they discovered, after adopting Titanium, that the functionality they needed was not already accommodated by Titanium’s comprehensive coverage of the native APIs. Right from its outset, Titanium has been inherently extensible, which is made possible by every one of its peripheral functions (database, network, camera, etc.) simply being a standard native module that exposes its own JavaScript API, albeit seamlessly integrated into the core Titanium namespace. If additional functionality is needed, and there are no modules already in our marketplace to provide it, native developers in particular will find it a trivial task to create their own. Our recent Forging Titanium video episode demonstrates how easy this is. If they are interested in creating an additional revenue stream for themselves, they could, in turn, even sell the module in the marketplace.

What are the main benefits to using Titanium?

We had an impressive range of visitors, from independent developers (both Titanium and native) to CxO’s of large corporates. Many wanted a high-level summary of how Titanium could impact their businesses. The key points reiterated were that Titanium:
  • increases coding productivity: developers only need to learn a single JavaScript API, which vastly reduces the time-consuming process of constantly switching between native programming languages or maintaining an in-depth knowledge of the underlying APIs
  • reduces the cost of maintaining apps for multiple platforms: developers only need to manage a single codebase, in contrast to two distinct native apps, making it easy to keep the respective featuresets in synch for the project’s lifetime
  • reduces initial apps-to-market development time and costs

The last point in particular epitomizes a type of question that was asked a lot: how long does it take to “convert” a native app to Titanium and can it then be distributed to all platform marketplaces with little additional consideration? For people who have worked with Titanium before, the answer may seem obvious, but there is no doubt that it needs clarification.

How would we migrate to Titanium?

While Titanium is indeed powerful, there is unfortunately no “Hogwarts magic” in it; Titanium is a platform in its own right, just like its native cousins, and thus all applications would have to be developed from scratch. That said, much of the business analysis, planning and UI design can certainly be reused. Furthermore, a Titanium app targeted for one platform can be expected to take roughly the same length of time to develop as an equivalent native app for that platform. The advantage is that the model and business logic of the app, that often accounts for up to 30% of development time, is reusable, leaving 70% for UI and platform-specific development. Thus, to extend the reach of an app to an additional marketplace would require a reduced amount of effort and re-coding (70%), far better than starting from scratch, but with a more manageable codebase going forward.

How much does Titanium really cost?

Another common point of discussion was about price; how much exactly does Titanium cost? As our Community knows, our featureful frontend to our toolset, Titanium Studio, is totally free to use and our SDKs are free and Open Source. Indeed, many of our developers have started viable businesses around Titanium apps that they have built and distributed to the marketplaces, without any financial obligations or license restrictions imposed by Appcelerator. This is the point in the conversation where delegates regularly responded with quizzical surprise and understandable suspicion! So [long pause], where does Appcelerator make its money? As our customers’ successes testify, in situations where an app becomes prolific in the marketplaces, a company’s portfolio expands or the business needs to extend a measurable level of service to clients, the “best-effort” support provided by our Community, excellent as it is, may not be adequate. This is when Appcelerator’s Professional Services teams can provide Enterprise-grade services, from technical support for code issues, priority bug fixes, app prototyping, staff augmentation all the way up to full project management. By the end of day two, while understandably exhausted, we were delighted by the keen interest we received from prestigious organizations such as the BBC, BT, Canonical (Ubuntu), Deutsche Telekom, Lloyds TSB, Saatchi & Saatchi Mobile, Telefonica Group, TWP Media, RTL Group and WPP Digital, all of whom were including Titanium as a potential solution for their up-coming projects. Of course, we hope this isn’t just exciting for us alone; raising the platform’s profile with businesses of this caliber will no doubt increase the demand for experienced developers, that can only realistically be found amongst our own Community. :) The AppsWorld Conference marks the beginning of Appcelerator’s concrete presence in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). This will be followed by a Headquarters in the UK that will help to foster relationships with businesses and provide a focal point for our developer community. Look out for further details to be announced in the weeks ahead.
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