Sencha Touch 2 Makes Web Apps Into Native Apps in One Line of Code

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By Todd Ogasawara Comment

App-building tool provider Sencha is set to release a major update for Sencha Touch that will let developers build native Android and iOS apps by adding a single line to their mobile web code. Their Sencha.io service, currently in beta, lets web developers build mobile cloud services using JavaScript and other web tools. Sencha Touch 2 is expected in in the second quarter of 2012 while pricing and other details for Sencha.io have not yet been determined.

Sencha’s Senior Director of Product Management, Aditya Bansod tells us that developers can expect a huge performance increase for Android devices in particular when Sencha Touch 2 is released. The ability to build iOS apps using web development tools may be especially interesting to developers who use PCs running Microsoft Windows because Sencha developer tools run on Windows as well a Mac OS X, it means that Windows-based developers can build mobile apps for iOS without a Mac.

Sencha focuses on providing tools for building desktop and mobile web apps based on HTML5 and JavaScript. Some of Sencha’s development tools are as both free Open Source downloads and as paid commercial license products. There have been 500,000 downloads of its desktop and mobile development products so far. The firm has 300,000 registered developers and 1.6 million active developers.

Sencha’s mobile development tools includes Sencha Touch, Sencha Touch Charts, Sencha Animator, and Sencha.io. Sencha Touch is an HTML5 mobile JavaScript framework for developing touch friendly mobile web apps that can deliver audio, video and offline data storage. It supports webkit based mobile browsers (Android, BlackBerry touch devices, and iOS). It can also be used with PhoneGap (now owned by Adobe) to create native apps with access to device APIs for access to systems such as a camera or contacts list. Sencha Touch Charts is an add-on to Sencha Touch that can build interactive graphical charts. Both Sencha Touch and Sencha Touch Charts are available under two license schemes and pricing. These products are available free of charge for non-commercial use under the Open Source GPLv3 license. Both are also available with a commercial license for $99 per seat for each product. Sencha Animator is a $199 tool that can generate CSS3 time-line based animation that supports hardware acceleration for maximizing rich media and can work with any mobile ad network.

Bansod tells Inside Mobile Apps that while Sencha products are easy to learn and use, the firm held five free roadshows for U.S. based developers this month to help them get started. The firm also provides paid four hour in-house training courses. Given Adobe’s announcement that Flash would no longer be developed for mobile devices, there is an increased need for developers to come up to speed on HTML5 and JavaScript. Bansod also points out a recent case study about Dyad Communications, which migrated from using Adobe Flash and Flex to Sencha Touch to convert large Flash sites into mobile HTML5 web sites in just a few weeks.

Sencha.io consists of four services: Login, Data, Messages, Deployment. The Login service provides social authentication using Facebook Connect with support for Twitter and OAuth currently in development. The Data service provides a mechanism to share data between devices as well as between users. Sencha.io’s Messages service can queue the data either on the device or in the cloud if both parties are not online at a given time, which we can see being used in a multiplayer turn-based game. Finally, the Deployment component can provide a place to house and run applications. This can be found at developer.sencha.io. The Deployment piece gives experienced web developers the ability to deal with server-side applications without dealing with traditional server software development tools.

Sencha.io provides a way to synchronize a mobile apps with the cloud. Bansod says that its main goal is to provide a cloud offering for web developers more familiar with JavaScript than languages like Java, Python, or Ruby. The product can even enable working with data when the mobile device is unable to reach the cloud. Bansod notes that Sencha.io is designed with the assumption that periodic disconnected experiences will be the norm for at least the next couple of years. The goal is reduce app behavior in these circumstances that might tax the mobile device’s battery.

No pricing has been announced for Sencha.io. However, Bansod says that Sencha expects to use some kind of metered pricing model similar to services like Amazon Web Services or Microsof Azure.

Sencha currently has more than 80 employees and has gone through two major rounds of funding with a $14 million first round led by Sequoia Capital with participation by Radar Partners in mid-2010 and a $15 million second round led by Jafco Venture with participation from Sequoia Capital and Radar Partners in October of this year.