While in San Francisco earlier this month, I met up with Laszlo’s Founder and CTO, David Temkin, along with CMO Kent Libbey. Laszlo has an open source Ajax application development platform called OpenLaszlo - which has been used for external apps like Pandora (online radio and music sharing) and ishares.com (Barclays sharemarket app). OpenLaszlo was released at the end of 2004 and claims to have over a quarter of a million downloads to date. Meanwhile Laszlo received an $8 million Series C round of funding in September and in October they made a deal with Sun Microsystems, to enable OpenLaszlo applications to run on the Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME).
When I spoke to David, my ears pricked up when he mentioned that Laszlo is building a WebOS. While he wasn't able to give me many details, he did say the WebOS will be a framework as well as a set of apps. Hmmm, the WebOS space is getting crowded! More on this as it develops.
Pandora, one of my fave online radios, uses OpenLaszlo
OpenLaszlo is often talked about as an open source competitor to Adobe's Flex, because both are rich client application development platforms. And from the user's perspective, a website built with Laszlo is almost identical to a website built with Flash (indeed OpenLaszlo has a Flash run-time option). From a company and developer perspective, the competition is pretty fierce between the two - illustrated by this post by Raju Bitter, an open source evangelist who uses Laszlo.
I asked David what the difference is between OpenLaszlo and Flex - he told me that OpenLaszlo is more consumer focused than Flex, which he says is mainly for enterprise.
In our briefing, David showed me some nifty apps. Laszlo Mail is a commercial rich client email app that is used by ISPs and other "communication service providers". Building on this is Laszlo's suite of personal productivity apps, currently in development, which they call Digital Life. Again, they plan to license this to ISPs and the like. It features email, IM, photo-sharing, calendar and works on mobile devices.
Laszlo Digital Life
All in all, OpenLaszlo is a compelling platform for building rich Ajax applications - or even Flash apps. They have a hard road to hoe competing against Adobe, a comparatively huge company with many more resources at their disposal (internal developers, marketing, brand name, money, etc). But being open source gives OpenLaszlo a lot of credibility in the developer community. It would be even better if they got a couple more 'glamor' projects like the Pandora one, to raise their profile in the consumer world.
What are your thoughts on Laszlo? Has anyone here used it?