Appcelerator releases Titanium 2.0 with suite of mobile cloud services.

On April 17th, 2012, Appcelerator took the wraps off of the latest release of their flagship product Titanium 2.0. This major point release of the seminal cross-platform mobile development environment brings with it a new suite of ready-to-use 'Instant Mobile Cloud Capabilities' via an available SDK.

For those unfamiliar with Titanium, it is an award winning mobile development platform with over 40,000 apps downloaded to millions of devices. It supports native app development by providing seamless JavaScript APIs for thousands of device-native functions in iOS & Android in addition to HTML5 mobile web. This enables web developers already skilled in the ubiquitous JavaScript language access to the burgeoning mobile development market without the steep learning curve required of native iOS and Android languages Objective-C & Java, respectively. I, myself, am a native iOS developer, and I speak from experience when I say learning Obj-C and the iOS SDK was akin to rock climbing a very tall cliff face, especially coming from a web development background. While I have no regrets having gone down this path, I encourage experienced web developers looking to expand into the native mobile market to give Titanium a close look.

Titanium, already a robust and capable iOS/Android development platform based on the versatile Eclipse IDE, delivers a one-two punch in the 2.0 release with the addition of following new features:

  • Hybrid and HTML5 Mobile Web deployment support
  • Appcelerator Cloud Services (ACS) API integration

What are these? 'Hybrid and Mobile Web' support are new deployment options to Titanium in addition to native iOS and Android platforms. This allows you, the developer, to create an app in Titanium and distribute to not only the iTunes app store and Android marketplace, but also directly to mobile optimized HTML5 web applications deliverable via a web server, a.k.a a web site, all from the same project source and codebase. Additionally, a 'Hybrid' - a combination of embedded web within a native distributable - is also possible. While is is not necessarily a new approach, the capability is now conveniently rolled into Titanium 2.0 with its support for HTML5. Appcelerator boasts support for over 5000 native APIs across iOS, Android for cross-compiling from JavaScript, as well as 70% faster development time over native Obj-C or Java. I'd imagine milage will vary greatly depending on the given developer's knowledge, skill, and experience with JavaScript (and web development in general), but it is hard to contest the sheer scope of capability facilitated by the Titanium platform, especially for those new to mobile development.

However, Appcelerator didn't stop there. As mentioned, they have pushed out a completely new cloud service called Appcelerator Cloud Services. 'The Cloud' is obviously the big rage currently, with Amazon, Apple, Google, and numerous others brawling it out for marketplace dominance. How does ACS fit in to this already insanely competitive market, and why would it be valuable to developers? Well, it distinguishes itself from the rest in the 'Services' part. ACS provides a suite of high relevant & useful ready-to-use tools that are hosted and available 24/7 via their own SDK. These tools include scaled network features and data objects especially practical for mobile app development - user logins, photo uploads, check-ins, status updates, and push notifications, to name a few. ACS is fully integrated into Titanium 2.0, of course, but the real surprise is it's also available to other mobile platforms with SDK support for Objective-C, Java, PhoneGap, Sencha and HTML5 directly. Whether using Titanium or not, this represents a huge boon to mobile app developers, especially smaller companies or independent consultants working with limited resources. Being able to mitigate much of the server-side complexity of mobile development is decidedly non-trivial in terms of time and cost, and this appears to be exactly the aim of ACS. It doesn't simply provide the tools, but an entire solution in the form of a versatile and convenient SDK. To better appreciate the scope of what ACS offers, here are the services it offers:

Tier 1 APIs:

  • Users
  • Photos
  • Custom Objects
  • Push Notifications
  • Email Templates
  • Key Values

Tier 2 APIs:

  • Places
  • Status
  • Posts
  • Clients
  • Social Integration
  • Check-Ins
  • Chat
  • Photo Collections
  • Ratings, Reviews, & Likes

Having worked on projects that require this sort of dependency, the value in ACS was immediately apparent. Developers will notice the 'Custom Objects' and 'Key Values'. These are critical for custom data objects that don't fit neatly into one of the provided categories. Combined with the multi-target cross platform support of Titanium 2.0, Appcelerator provides a comprehensive mobile development solution for developers more comfortable with existing JavaScript skills. For those already invested in the steeps of other platforms, ACS should offer an attractive turnkey solution to popular app capabilities that typically add the overhead of additional cost and complexity to projects.

The bottom line - if you are new to mobile app development, but not to web development, Titanium is well worth taking for a spin. It puts the most relevant mobile technologies and marketplaces within reach in one shot. If you are a native mobile developer for iOS or Android, this may have limited value since the native languages are not used directly in Titanium, and you already have access to the full native SDK APIs. If you are an independent consultant or a company, and have clients that request deployment of a mobile app to multiple platforms, this may very well be the cost effective solution you are looking for. Whatever the case may be, ACS should be useful to anyone requiring server-side data object management, but may lack the resources to effectively support them. In addition, Appcelerator provides a variety of resources on their site, including tutorials, a blog, community forum and documentation to get you up to speed. They offer a range of development packages, starting at no cost and scaling up to enterprise or custom packages. ACS is also available separately, of course, in tiered options. The Titanium 2.0 suite looks like a promising solution for mobile developers, old and new alike.