Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why did you acquire Zapatec?

This morning we announced the acquisition of Zapatec. I believe Dana at ZDNET summarized it best: "With Zapatec Funambol has one stack to rule mobile open source". I believe this is a big part of the reason why we made the move. However, there is more and I thought it would be nice for me to answer some of the questions you might have here.

So: why?

Well, I wrote here before many times that I believe the future of mobile apps is native, with sync and push, built on Web 2.0 technologies (Ajax, CSS, HTML).

To clarify: I am not talking about remote apps on a web site, I am talking about local apps, installed on your mobile device. I do not believe in a future where everything is streamed from the cloud. Usability is key. You want your app on your device, you want the data synced on your device, pushed to you when you are not looking at it. It is the reason why mobile email has been that popular on Blackberries. Your app is there, your emails are there, pushed to you while you drive. One click, fraction of a second, and you are productive.

Remember, speed is everything. We started using Google as a search engine years ago, not only because it delivered the best results but because it was fast. On the desktop, waiting one second was too much. On a mobile phone, when you have your umbrella open and it is pouring, a fraction of a second is too much. Usability is key. Speed to access what you need is key.

App Stores solved the issue of the delivery of apps to the device. It is that easy now to install one: it takes seconds. The problem is with developers. There are too many platforms out there. You have to be an expert on Objective C, C++, Java, cross-compilation, testing on a gazillion of devices and so on. And it is not going to get any better in the future. This is not the PC industry. We have lived through it. We learned. No vendor will own 95% of the market. In this market, as soon as Apple becomes successful, carriers jump on Android to prevent them to be too successful. This is a market for five operating systems - at least - with 15% of market share each...

If you are a developer, what are you dreaming of today? A way to develop apps with web technologies. Same as in the desktop world: Ajax, CSS, HTML. A platform that allows you to develop apps that move across devices. Where your only issue is to deal with screen sizes (which is already a challenge).

Now, if you need local apps, you need sync and push across a billion phones. Which is what Funambol does, since the beginning of time (Sync4j goes back to 2001). If you believe the world is moving towards mobile apps built on an Ajax framework, you need Zapatec. They have the best Ajax framework out there. I speak from personal experience. We have been working with the Zapatec guys for a year. We built our portal on it. We have been amazed by how good it is, how flexible it is, how open it is (they chose AGPL v3, smart guys)... And how good the people behind it are. Acquiring them was a no-brainer, since our business is booming, we have signed so many big customers in the last months, doubling our numbers Q2 over Q1, Q3 over Q2. This is the time for us to be aggressive. To change the world, to be the first billion dollar company in open source (ok, I got a bit carried away :-))

To me, Funambol+Zapatec is the future of mobile apps. Native applications, installed on your mobile device, that sync and push. But that are built on Web 2.0 technologies. A dream for users and developers.

Stay tuned. The future starts now.