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Monetizing open source and killing Adobe AIR

Open source may be the key to rich Internet applications. Appcelerator thinks it has a better way to make RIAs sans plug-ins.

Appcelerator, an open-source company that makes it easier to build and manage rich Web applications with aim to bring them to the desktop, today announced Titanium, its new platform to do just this.

Jeff Haynie, CEO Appcelerator
Jeff Haynie, CEO Appcelerator Appcelerator

Titanium is primed to be the open-source Adobe AIR killer so I sat down with Jeff Haynie, Appcelerator's CEO, to drill him on the preview release.

Q: What is Titanium and why should we care?
Haynie: We started Appcelerator with the dream of developing an open platform to make it faster, cheaper and easier to build rich Web applications and deploy them in various environments such as the desktop and mobile device.

We first came out with the Appcelerator SDK that allows you to rapidly build a rich Web app with fully integrated front-end and back-end plug-ins. The back-end supports a ton of programming languages and frameworks and on the front-end we have a tool kit to support building the apps--so it makes it super easy. We wanted to take it one step further though and so came out with Titanium today.

In simple terms, Titanium is an open-source platform that allows you to build desktop and mobile applications using standard Web technologies, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Titanium means you can easily work with your existing Web development skills, you can build native desktop applications with all the traditional functionality of a desktop app and you are completely free to innovate and push the boundaries since the platform is entirely open. You don't even need to use the Appcelerator SDK at all.

So in addition to launching Titanium you are also announcing a Series A financing round of $4.1 million. How did you raise it?
Haynie: Appcelerator was bootstrapped for the first two years, but with the SDK we were able to bring in revenue through additional services and training sessions. To continue to make the serious investments in the products and support our customers, we needed to raise our Series A round and were fortunate enough to hook up with Ryan Floyd of Storm Ventures and Larry Augustin, who are both true believers in the need for Web apps to move to the desktop and the belief that open source is the only way this will truly be made a reality.

The bane of many open source companies existence is monetization. Any details on how you plan to monetize Titanium and actually make some money?
Haynie: We are a pure open source company, so we will never do the bait and switch open-source model and start charging for Titanium or offer a crippled version or an enterprise version. Titanium will always be free and open for anyone to use--everything you see is what you get.

In the future we are going to announce some cloud-based, software-as-a-service style services to add on top of the infrastructure that will extend the functionality. We will be announcing these in Q1 of next year, so stay tuned.

I also believe this current economic situation is an incredible time for open-source companies. It's a really good time to be doing what we're doing. We are seeing a worldwide hiring freeze, but still the expectations of growth, so everyone is looking for ways to get more out of what they already have.

It is the open source model that will make it possible for Titanium to build up such a strong user base. We are lowering the cost and timing it takes to develop applications and there is no need to hire other vendors because you can use your existing web development skills.

Any apps developed using Titanium so far?
Haynie: When we announced Titanium today we also released a couple demo apps as user cases for people to check out. In the true spirit of open source, you can download the full versions of the apps and the full source code. You can check out Tweetanium, our Twitter client, and Playtanium, a YouTube video player, and a Contact Manager here: We're very excited to see what people build on top of these applications though.