Appcelerator Offers Channel One-Stop Mobile App Dev

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If the explosion of mobile device applications has created an unprecedented level of opportunity for developers, count Appcelerator as a specialty vendor that knows how to strike when an iron is hot.

Founded in 2006, Appcelerator has earned plaudits for Titanium, an open source app dev framework that uses a single codebase. The hook is that users can build applications for Web, desktop and mobile using standard languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and Titanium does the legwork of tailoring those apps to different platforms for them.

The original Titanium debuted in December 2008, and the mobile version, Titanium Mobile, was released in beta in June 2009 for popular platforms like Google's Android and Apple's iPhone OS.

Appcelerator's partner program, launched in October 2009, is targeted to advertising agencies, systems integrators and other solution providers who want to offer mobile, Web or desktop app development as part of a solution set, but don't want to contract out the work to expensive developers or spend time training their staff on individual, device-specific platforms.

"It's all about 'how I can I take advantage of opportunities now but not let my choice be antiquated when the next big platform, or wave, or device or whatever comes out," said Scott Schwarzhoff, Appcelerator's vice president of marketing.

The partner program includes what Schwarzhoff called a "quick start" version -- partners get the basic platform so they can get up and running and building apps quickly -- and other elements like sales and marketing assistance and lead generation. Appcelerator also provides cloud services through which partners can package and distribute software developed on Titanium.

Appcelerator intends 90 to 95 percent of its business to go through channel partners, Schwarzhoff said.

"For the most part, when we get inquiries, we push all of that out to the partners," he said. "Once they have the platform, they're able to spend a lot more time on feature development and meeting specific needs, rather than spending time and money training on platforms."

Appcelerator's existing channel partners championed the company's approach, though some wished Appcelerator could support a broader number of mobile platforms -- it doesn't yet offer BlackBerry, for example -- immediately.

"The biggest benefit is that we can develop iPhone, Android and, when it comes, BlackBerry applications under one thing and export them to different platforms, which saves us a huge amount of time," said Brendan Lim, director of mobile solutions at Intridea, a Washington, D.C.-based solution provider. "We used to just do Web development stuff so a lot of our guys have experience with HTML, JavaScript, things like that. It makes it a lot easier to do this quickly."

The mobile demands of many end users are accelerating faster than most developers can keep up with them, Lim said.

"Before, not that many companies thought that mobile was such a big thing, and now with Android and the broom of the Apple App Store and the marketplace, the amount of requests we're getting for mobile is huge," he said. "A lot of requests have been for mobile-specific applications that go beyond just taking what a company has on the Web and making a mobile version of it."

"Not having to fully retrain staff and being able to re-use lines to develop on multiple platforms has been a real, massive benefit," added Andy Peacock, solutions architect at systems integrator Computer Sciences Corp (CSC), Falls Church, Va.

Peacock said that CSC, which signed on to Appcelerator's partner program at launch, had already seen huge benefits to what it could offer different types of enterprises.

"This is a market that's only starting to flourish and soon we'll be seeing more things like apps specific for ruggedized devices and things like that," he said. "People expect a lot more from their devices now than they did even a year ago."

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