A simple and cost effective dip coating method was used to deposit thin films of amorphous (AM) or anatase (AN) titanium dioxide (TiO2) on borosilicate glass substrates, either with or without prior doping of TiO2 with nickel (Ni) cations by a specially designed sol gel technique. The objective of the study was to compare the physicochemical and biological properties of these films and assess their use in orthopedic implants or for in vitro cell biological studies. Analytical techniques such as XRD and XPS, in combination with ATR-FTIR and SEM revealed that only AN films, prepared by controlled heating up to 450°C, irrespective of prior doping with Ni, contained significant crystalline structures of variable morphologies. This observation could be linked to the carbon and oxygen contents and the availability of functional groups in the films. Cell biological studies revealed that Ni doping of TiO2 in both AM and AN films improved the adhesion, spreading, proliferation, differentiation, and migration of MC3T3 cells. Our studies provide a new approach to prepare optically transparent metal surfaces, with tunable physicochemical properties, which could be suitable for eliciting optimal osteoinductive cell responses and permit the detailed in vitro cell biological studies of osteoblasts. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A:, 2012.