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Open source webdesktopmobile kit refreshes for iPhone, Android

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Appcelerator has taken the beta tag off its open source Titanium development kit, a means of building native desktop and mobile applications using traditional web-development tools such as JavaScript, Python, Ruby on Rails, html and CSS.

Titanium 1.0 was officially released today, with the Silicon Valley–based startup claiming significantly improved performance on iPhone and Android handsets after reconstructing the kit's mobile setup. In beta, Titanium crafted its native iPhone and Android applications by way of the WebKit browsers built into those high-profile mobile platforms, but after a three-month rewrite, it now bypasses the browser entirely, according to director of marketing Scott Schwarzhoff.

"With [the beta], we had to kind of wrap the native code around the browser. You had a lot of overhead you had to get around. We had apps that would launch 50 browser instances at a time," Schwarzhoff told The Reg. "Now, we have a JavaScript emulator that provides a direct one-to-one binding to the native system."

Schwarzhoff claims that an application's average startup time has been reduced from about 10-20 seconds to about 2-3 seconds and that JavaScript performance has improved by as much as five-fold.

In essence, Titanium offers a laundry list of desktop and mobile APIs accessible from common web languages. With these APIs, you can build native runtimes for Windows, Linux and Mac desktops and notebooks, iPhones and Android handsets. In the past, on mobile platforms, the browser provided a kind of bridge between the dev tools and local resources, including data and OS hooks. Now, Schwarzhoff says, that browser middleman is no longer necessary.

The idea is that seasoned web developers can build for the iPhone without learning Objective-C, or for Android without learning Java. Appcelerator offers a free version of Titanium as well as a "professional" version that includes support, app analytics, and access to more beta tools for $199 per developer per month.

The company is preparing new APIs for the Apple iPad and expects them to be ready by the time the device ships on April 3. Support for RIM BlackBerries is slated for June. ®

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