Get a re-development plan to help you move from Appcelerator to Flutter

In light of End-of-Support for Appcelerator Titanium being announced by Axway, Multizone would like to offer help for those of you with Appcelerator based apps in the form of a fixed price report and re-development plan. This will provide a costed roadmap for the migration of an existing Appcelerator based application to Flutter.

I believe in a single codebase for mobile applications. Discipline here enables simultaneous publication of software for Apple and Google Android devices, and results in less expenses in development, fewer defects, and the potential for a more coherent, and therefore better, overall platform.

  • Multizone has the know-how. We have over a decade of experience in publishing mobile applications for ourselves and for clients in the App Store and Google Play.
  • Multizone has been working with the Flutter toolkit since it was launched. We have seen it mature, and indeed it reached 2.0.1 status just last week.
  • We have completed the re-development of a major app platform for a clients with more than 20 discrete mobile apps. This involved migrating from Axway Appcelerator and its cloud services to Flutter and Firebase. These apps serve hundreds of organisations with tens of thousands of end-users.
  • Multizone knows that development frameworks require backing from major vendors with 'skin in the game'. Consequently we now recommend that Appcelerator applications are re-developed with the Flutter UI toolkit, with backend services in Firebase both from Google who have a vested interest in the success of Flutter for many of their own apps for Apple and Google Android devices
  • We have confidence in our proven ability to publish Flutter based apps in the App Store and Google Play.

We can be contracted to: deliver your app; build a team and deliver your app; product manage your team; or provide a costed plan to be used internally.

If Multizone is contracted to deliver the entire project, the cost of the report will be credited against your first invoice.

Request more information

TL:DR — Special offer

Appcelerator app re-development plan

This is a long read about the emergence of Flutter prompted by last weeks announcement of the end of support for Appcelerator and if you want to skip that, then you should just know that in light of this discontinuation, Multizone would like to offer a fixed price report and re-development plan for moving an existing Appcelerator based application to Flutter.

We can be contracted to: deliver your app; build a team and deliver your app; product manage your team; or provide a costed plan to be used internally.

If Multizone is contracted to deliver the entire project, the cost of the report will be credited against your first invoice.

Get in touch today! We can help.

End-of-Support for Appcelerator

In 2016, Axway acquired Appcelerator and its open-source cross platform application framework, Titanium. When I went to Axway's developer conference in May 2017 (at the very very fancy Mayfair hotel in London), I had only one question for their VP of Tech or somesuch: “Why did you acquire Appcelerator?”. I asked this, in front of a room full of suited enterprise people, and the VP and assembled team of assistants could not really answer.

Perhaps they still can’t answer my question, as last week they announced in their Product Update: Changes to Application Development Services – Appcelerator their so-called 'End-of-Support' for Titanium effective March 1, 2022. This ‘End-of-Support’ will be followed by the discontinuation of Axway’s Mobile Backend Services, used by Titanium applications. This discontinuation will be effective from September 1, 2022, so realistically September 2022 is the end of the Axway Appcelerator line.

Appcelerator had a great run

Appcelerator was founded in 2006, and largely delivered on what had, until then, been an impossible dream - one codebase and development platform for Apple and Google Android devices. I recently found an old calendar invite to 'Titanium for new developers’, from January 2011. It is hard to comprehend that this was over a decade ago.

The idea was bold. Use JavaScript to write app logic that can be compiled to native code for each distinct platform. Appcelerator delivered and had quite an incredible ecosystem around it, with active community meet-ups all over the world, and almost a million registered developers.

Appcelerator also delivered a cloud platform where you could store information specific to the end user device. This platform could also provide notifications for Apple and Google Android devices. This was profound, as notifications were just emerging as the key differentiator for mobile apps. The complexity across the operating systems platforms for notifications was huge, and thus, Appcelerator enabled small independent developers to produce apps with functionality which would have been previously out of reach.

Because of a requirement to simultaneously publish for Apple iOS and Google Android based devices, I commissioned Multizone’s first mobile app to be built with Titanium and sent the lead developer on the very first Titanium training course to be run in the UK. He liked it so much he founded the Titanium London User Group with others from that course and went on to deliver for Multizone a Home Office trailblazer set of apps enabling social engagement by the police in the UK. These apps were Multizone’s first mobile apps and won us several awards including a mobile innovation award from Appcelerator, and an invite to speak at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona about our exploits.

Back in 2013, around 10% of apps were built with Titanium and it was open-source too, so what was not to like!

Mis-steps

Appcelerator innovated, and of course, as all pioneers do, they made mis-steps along the way. The path to success for any company is littered with failed experiments that inform and guide towards maturity, and hopefully successful products. Appcelerator’s platform effort was diluted by wasted energy on Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 and other diversions which were important issues at the time.

It seems to me, that Appcelerator also burned a lot of independent developer community bridges when they began to charge indie community developers for their apps and platform participation, just as other frameworks were emerging. Appcelerator were looking for Enterprise software revenues and hired an enterprise software product management and sales team. Axway eventually reinstated the free indie plans.

The platform had its mis-steps too. The 'Alloy' Model–View–Controller (MVC) based framework was brilliant, visionary and had passionate leadership within the company but was eschewed by some developers because it required all Titanium apps to be completely rewritten to take advantage of it.

Worryingly though in 2016 it was obvious that many great people in Appcelerator development and community relations were moving on. Increasingly, I found my developers telling me, that their application development pathway was becoming blocked by hurdles. For example, they were forced to use one specific version of Titanium for Android, and another for iOS, to work around serious platform specific bugs. It could easily become impossible to move forward due to these obstacles.

Appcelerator was, frankly and in my opinion of course, not great at delivering solid support for new operating systems, when they shipped on devices from Apple or Google. If you were using the development tools provided by Apple or Google, you could reasonably expect to be able to work with beta releases and tools. This meant that you would not be overly surprised by new functionality on a new device’s release day. Working this way just wasn’t realistic for Appcelerator, who could take many months to support latest features in the operating systems and this caused friction with clients, as well as bad reviews on the App Store and Google Play.

To me this was the 'writing on the wall', for Appcelerator and so from around mid 2017 I started to highlight Appcelerator Titanium and the Axway platform as a technical risk in my projects and began to look for alternatives in order to mitigate that risk.

Titanium is open-source so it is possible to build it from source free from Appcelerator licensing. I experimented with that, and presented my findings at Titanium London in May 2017. It wasn’t easy, and you didn’t get the Appcelerator cloud platform of course. It didn’t seem to me to be viable on a small scale, and although Axway are handing the keys back to the open-source community at bigger scale and I wish them well, it does not seem to me to be the best foot forward.

Flutter 1.0

On December 4, 2018, I found myself at the Science Museum in London, at 'Flutter Live'. This was the launch of Flutter 1.0 - the first stable release of Googles open-source toolkit for building beautiful, natively compiled applications for mobile devices.

To be blunt, I was quite sceptical about Flutter. I had read about its origins, the Fuchsia operating system project, the initial lofty browser domination goal and what appeared to be a resulting pivot to single codebase mobile apps for Android and iOS. Given last weeks expansion of Flutter 2.0 to include web apps, Linux, Windows and the Mac alongside iOS and Android apps I dont think it was a pivot, just a target milestone in a much much more strategic project.

The question for me remained - How I was going to move clients away from Appcelerator and why would it be to Flutter? How could Google achieve what Appcelerator, for all its faults, had already done and optimised. What about other mainstream frameworks like Facebook’s React Native? What about native development in Swift, or Kotlin?

I didn't have any answers at that point.

Despite being a 1.0 release, Flutter completely blew me away at the event. The demos on both iOS and Android were flawless and built live on stage for developers to witness. The excitement was palpable. The demos were real and people were enthused.

I felt like we had been working with a late model VHS player, and were being shown an early Blu-Ray player. You could implement the same content and tune it to be the best it could be, but, Appcelerator, like VHS, was at the end of its lifecycle and the other, Flutter, like Blu-Ray, was at the start. 

Nasty but necessary coexistence.

By the time I was able to seriously consider moving to Flutter in mid 2019 the platform had moved forward quickly. I felt there was enough coverage to deliver all the existing functionality in my clients most complex Appcelerator Titanium app with a new Flutter based app, while re-implementing the cloud platform from Appcelerator to Google Firebase for notifications. This could be delivered as a part of a major release which required quite an increase in the complexity of the apps themes and behind the scenes structure to support the clients objectives and satisfy the requirements of App Review by Apple and Google. Re-developing was palatable.

At a roadmap meeting, our small team discussed it with our client and he gave the go ahead. I used the VHS to Blu-Ray analogy. For a time though, this meant bug fixing in Appcelerator while re-developing in Flutter. A nasty but necessary coexistence.

Fast forward to 2021 and that client app is now 100% Flutter in production; there are some Appcelerator device end users who have not updated, but those devices are probably long gone. I am looking forward to finally turning off the Appcelerator Cloud platform for those apps this month. Those devices will just see a 'you need to update' notice thereafter and will no longer receive notifications.

The new apps have, of course, had some teething problems. Most of these have been related to the increased complexity of the platform rather than with Flutter itself. In fact the crash statistics are negligible with Flutter, whereas they were quite high with Appcelerator.

The Flutter community has lots of active package development, so finding solutions to functionality issues has been straightforward. The devs tell me that Dart is a delight to use.

This client app, even though it is now on its third major release, is really on its Flutter 1.0 release. It is built on the know-how from the Appcelerator app, and was able to correct some mis-steps in the design present in earlier releases as a result of the previous platform.

It updated in the app stores pretty seamlessly, except that end-users needed to reselect their opt-in notification settings - we weren't able to take the details forward from Appcelerator to Flutter.

It has a far better automatic push certificate management now, which was not possible to achieve with the older system. Hopefully now, we will see the end-user reviews improve, as we see the benefits in the quality of the app. We will also be able to concentrate once again on feature development and UI improvement rather than feature parity with the older app.

What happens to Appcelerator apps?

According to Axway, applications developed with Titanium will continue to function after March 1, 2022, unless or until Apple and Google introduce changes to their respective operating systems. This may break the Titanium version used to build the application. Despite this March 2022 date, Mobile Backend Services offered by Axway (and primarily used with Titanium applications) will be discontinued effective September 1, 2022.

Realistically September 2022 is the end of the Axway Appcelerator line.

Having built and managed hundreds of Axway Appcelerator applications, I can say with certainty that Apple and Google will introduce changes to their respective operating systems in this time period. These changes will cause problems for applications built with Titanium, resulting in end user dissatisfaction, poor reviews, and potentially, applications disappearing from app stores on ineligible new devices.

Axway are planning to work with the open-source Titanium project contributors to transfer ownership rights, documentation, build systems, and other information to ensure continuity of the open-source project. Axway have recommended that customers utilise the services from freelance developers in the Titanium SDK community to maintain or enhance their Titanium based applications.

This transition to a community project is welcome, but insufficient, especially for enterprise customers. It is my opinion that a major vendor directly related to mobile technology needs to be behind any mobile application development framework, UI Toolkit, and associated languages and developer tools.

Special re-development assistance offer!

In light of 'End-of-Support for Appcelerator Titanium being announced by Axway, Multizone would like to offer help for those of you with Appcelerator based apps in the form of a fixed price report and re-development plan. This will provide a costed roadmap for the migration of an existing Appcelerator based application to Flutter.

I believe in a single codebase for mobile applications. Discipline here enables simultaneous publication of software for Apple and Google Android devices, and results in less expenses in development, fewer defects, and the potential for a more coherent, and therefore better, overall platform.

  • Multizone has the know-how. We have over a decade of experience in publishing mobile applications for ourselves and for clients in the App Store and Google Play.
  • Multizone has been working with the Flutter toolkit since it was launched. We have seen it mature, and indeed it reached 2.0.1 status just last week.
  • We have completed the re-development of a major app platform for a clients with more than 20 discrete mobile apps. This involved migrating from Axway Appcelerator and its cloud services to Flutter and Firebase. These apps serve hundreds of organisations with tens of thousands of end-users.
  • Multizone knows that development frameworks require backing from major vendors with 'skin in the game'. Consequently we now recommend that Appcelerator applications are re-developed with the Flutter UI toolkit, with backend services in Firebase, both of which come from Google who have a vested interest in the success of Flutter for many of their own apps for Apple and Google Android devices
  • We have confidence in our proven ability to publish Flutter based apps in the App Store and Google Play.

We can be contracted to: deliver your app; build a team and deliver your app; product manage your team; or provide a costed plan to be used internally.

If Multizone is contracted to deliver the entire project, the cost of the report will be credited against your first invoice.

Why Flutter?

Flutter is fast proving itself to be a leading cross-platform mobile framework used by global developers. According to a July 2020 developer survey, Flutter moved from being used by 30% percent of software developers using cross platform mobile development frameworks to 39% year on year.

Why not one of the other frameworks?

Simply put, I have placed my bet on Flutter. It has the support of a major vendor, a huge active community, an amazing early set of capabilities with fonts, styling, and packages to add functionality for Dart and Flutter apps. I use it to produce beautiful native mobile apps that are identical apart from platform variations on Apple and Google Android devices.

Flutter has been a delight to invest time in. The Dart programming language, developed by Google, is optimised for user interfaces containing event-driven code. It is easy to learn, with a familiar syntax. The Material Themeing capabilities, access to Google Fonts, and the ease of development, with developer productivity tools like 'hot reload' for Android and iOS devices, and the inspection tools for Flutter widget trees make it easy to diagnose code and layout issues.

Flutter’s adoption of Material Design makes it easy to construct applications that everyone intuitively knows how to use. Flutter is supported by a variety of development tools, including Android Studio. Flutter supports new releases of the target device operating systems, often during their beta, rather than waiting until after the release. These are the litmus tests of any mobile device application development environment. Flutter passes them all.

Nevertheless here are a few comments about alternatives:

React Native is from Facebook. Apps are constructed in JavaScript using React 'primitives' to render native platform UI. It has been widely adopted, but critics such as Airbnb call out difficult problem identification. This results in increased development and support cycles, due to the number of complexities in the platform, its bridges and its native libraries. Facebook is not a mobile device operating system vendor and recently there has been a lack of clarity over their own internal commitments to React Native. As Airbnb noted "it can be frustrating sometimes when you start up your testing React Native on iOS, you write it and everything looks good, you go to Android and it doesn’t work exactly the same"—Gabriel Peal, Airbnb ( https://softwareengineeringdaily.com/2018/09/24/show-summary-react-native-at-airbnb/).

Apache Cordova is an open-source hybrid application framework related to the defunct Adobe Phone Gap. The hybrid applications it can create are neither truly native mobile applications nor purely Web-based. Adobe discontinued PhoneGap Build and ended investment in PhoneGap and Apache Cordova. In a sense it suffered from some of the same problem as Appcelerator. The host organisation has decided to move on, and although the open-source project remains, it is difficult to justify investment in products built upon it. ( https://blog.phonegap.com/update-for-customers-using-phonegap-and-phonegap-build-cc701c77502c ).

Xamarin is a Microsoft-owned software company which according to Wikipedia provides cross-platform implementations of the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and Common Language Specifications (parts of Microsoft .NET). Microsoft announced that they would open-source the Xamarin SDK and bundle it with their integrated development environment. It might make sense for development shops invested in Microsoft technologies. I don't do projects with Xamarin or .NET so I can't speak for it but I note that Microsoft are a contributor to Flutter now too.

Native Code Of course you can write native code for each platform separately with separate developers and testing regimes and some organisations will need to do that. For most applications I am asked to build it simply isnt necessary and usually is not economically viable to do so.

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Work for us!

Multizone is made up of an award winning team with a friendly working ethos based on trust. If you feel you could contribute towards the success of our company as part of our team then we would be very interested in hearing from you.

We are extremely flexible. Part time work and working from home is an option but we do require highly responsive people, permitted to work in the UK, who fit well with our team and ethos and who are online most of the time and prepared to travel at times to client sites all over the UK. We are based in Surrey and Scotland.

Please get in touch via email with a link to example apps or sites you have developed or other useful information.

Jobs!

Mobile app Developer - Flutter SDK , Dart

Back end app and API developer - Joomla!, PHP, JavaScript, Firebase

At Multizone we create cloud connected high-performance, high-fidelity apps for iOS and Android from a single codebase. We use the Flutter UI toolkit from Google, with cloud services and Joomla! for content management.

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Recent work

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Piota high quality native mobile apps are completely free to download. These apps are designed to help schools streamline communication, cut costs, save time and aid pupil learning. Hundreds of schools, colleges and education related organisations use apps from Piota to improve communications, engagement and feedback. Piota healthcare apps help healthcare organisations engage with their audience of employees, patients, carers and others.

The app platform created for Piota is built using open source tools and frameworks that we love to work with, and supports tens of thousands of end user mobile devices for hundreds of organisations.

macOS deployment

What we have are a very particular set of macOS and Unix skills, skills we have acquired over a very long career. Skills that mean we can customise macOS as required for continuous integration and virtual servers without breaking the simplicity of the system. One small business client ran macOS Server for years inside their HQ in order to ensure the security of the data they work with. It was so reliable that they didn not need their own IT specialist. It was backed up automatically using Time Machine. Because it is based on macOS it was kept up to date with security issues and best practice.

Product Management and Vision

eDiscovery product management. Multizone Director Angus Fox provided leadership support and Interim Product Management consulting services, and held workshops to establish a sense of purpose and to create a product vision for e-Discovery software in a market in the middle of a transformation. He created a program of leadership mentoring and direction for the e-Discovery software product management team. He established a product innovation process based on Agile, with light touch but effective oversight and governance. To establish the vision he carefully chose and hired people to join the pm team who fast showed their ability to become a high performance team.

Police mobile apps for engagement

Surrey Police had over 500 neighbourhood officers using our apps after the completion of the rollout across all eleven boroughs in August 2012. Apps were available for download by members of the public from the App Store and from Google Play. Tayside Police rolled out our apps to community officers force wide. The apps had tens of thousands of downloads. Note that sadly these apps are no longer available.

Android

Android™ apps

App management involves feasibility analysis and written requirements, development, testing, in-life and end of life support. Android apps need strong Visual Design and User Interaction and performance with stability. Apps designed for Google Play need to adhere to publication criteria.

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App Store

Apps for iPhone® and iPad®

App management involves app feasibility analysis and written requirements, development, testing, App Store review, in-life and end of life support. Engaging apps require notifications and regular content and feature updates to keep functionality fresh in concert with new devices and operating systems.

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Joomla!®

Joomla! is an open source, mobile ready content management system under continuous development. Every Joomla! website can have mobile friendly content for visitors and administrators. Joomla! is mature, powerful and proven. We love it and our mobile apps are better because of it.

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Open Source

Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared by anyone. We encourage our developers to contribute code they have written for our projects back to open source projects that use software licenses approved by OSI in the belief that better software will be the result.

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