Sencha, the Sequoia-funded company behind Ext JS, has hit a big milestone today: it’s releasing the 1.0 edition of its Sencha Touch framework. Sencha Touch allows developers to build web-based applications with the polished look of native iPhone apps, but with the benefit of being cross-platform (the same web apps will run on Android’s browser too).
Today’s 1.0 release brings with it some big news: the framework’s commercial license, which was previously $99, is now free (customers who already paid will receive refunds). This is a big change, and one that Sencha hopes will lead to a landgrab of developer mindshare.
So how will Sencha monetize? The company plans to sell its tools, like Sencha Animator, at a premium. It’ll also offer premium support plans.
Sencha Touch first launched in beta this summer, and has since added some key new features, including improved Android support (UI elements that had some quirks now work fine on both Android and iPhone) and a MVC pattern that should be familiar to anyone who has used Ruby on Rails. The beta was downloaded 160,000 times — you can see some of the applications developers have built so far on this App Contest site.
I’m very optimistic on Sencha’s future (and that of similar web frameworks). Native applications may dominate much of the mobile smartphone and tablet experience these days, but the development challenges associated with maintaining apps on multiple platforms are substantial. Web apps solve that problem, and while they aren’t yet up to par with native experiences in most cases, they’ll get there eventually.