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Start-up to host Web applications for free

AppCity aims to draw advertisers by providing a wide collection of Web-hosted applications available from its Internet site for no charge.

Why rent something when you can get it for free?

That's the question start-up AppCity will ask consumers and businesses tomorrow when it goes live with a wide collection of Web-hosted applications available from its Internet site for no charge.

The company aims to draw advertisers by providing customers an array of data presentation tools for mining information on the Internet, as well as dozens of applications for Net shopping and business, among other things.

Although some of the applications will be prefabricated, AppCity hopes to really catch fire by giving customers the tools to quickly build and share custom applications through its AppZapper program.

"We've solved the problem of application development on the Web," said AppCity chief executive Mark Frankel. "We've created a product that creates commercial quality applications in a fraction of the time."

AppCity's move into hosted Web applications comes as the concept of renting software services, rather than buying shrink-wrapped products, is starting to draw serious corporate support from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T and Microsoft.

Despite the crowded field, analysts said AppCity's twist of offering free hosted Web application services looks promising.

"It seems like an interesting concept if they can deliver," said Warren Wilson, an analyst at research firm Summit Strategies. "There is a lot of potential in giving people the ability to develop and deploy their own applications. Very few others are doing this."

Wilson said AppCity's closest competitors include application service developers such as Employease, Corio, Eality and Captura, which build Web apps for commercial clients.