Gartner recently published its latest Magic Quadrant for the Mobile Application Development Platform space (July 2018), and let’s just say the results were interesting. Or to be blunt, let me quote the immortal revolutionary leader, Fielding Mellish:
It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”
Let’s unpack a few things from the MQ:
- Gartner’s RMAD Crush: Gartner has always loved RMADs (Rapid Mobile Application Development platforms) and have sung the praises of them and individual companies such as Capriza and PowWowMobile. Now, I’m not saying RMAD’s don’t have a place in the enterprise, but they don’t have the same performance characteristics and ability to leverage native device APIs as do true MADPs like Xamarin. Yet Gartner conflates RMADs and MADPs. This makes separating the wheat from the chaff even harder for enterprises that are still new to mobile. And many RMADs are targeted to support the business user or “citizen developer” as they are sometimes called. Those of you who have worked on real projects know that letting business users code—even drag and drop—is not going to end well. And even if the first version works, maintenance, enhancements and extensibility are going to be a bear.
- Not Factoring Rising App Complexity into Evaluations: from our experience working with F1000 enterprise clients, mobile in the enterprise is increasingly taking on more complex business processes. One project I’m working on handles very complex business logic to manage warehouse operations and another app deals with even greater complexity to enable route salespeople to service customers. The tools must be up to the task. We must separate between “professional tools” and others. Frankly I don’t think a product ill-equipped to handle this level of complexity should qualify to be a “leader.” But here we are.
A Look at the Top 5
Now let’s look at the Top 5 vendors in the new MQ (order is based on my reading of the placement of the companies in the quadrant, not on raw scoring):
Kony, I get. It’s been around a while and is used by some big companies. I used it on a project…once. And I’d like to keep it that way. Kony Visualizer is great for building prototypes and demos. But it has limitations.
Microsoft makes a lot of sense. We use Xamarin a lot, and we’re pretty impressed. Also, since the acquisition (a year and a half ago) that led to its being bundled “free” with Visual Studio, adoption throughout the enterprise has been pretty strong. Admittedly, Azure App Services and analytics are still maturing, but things are only going to get better.
I’m a little surprised to see Oracle. But let’s talk about OutSystems and Mendix’s place on this list. Here’s where we really get to the “travesty of a mockery of a sham.” I don’t know a single large enterprise that uses either platform. I posed this to the Emerging Technology Council, and only one member used Mendix—six years ago. But again, I don’t truly understand the evaluation criteria Gartner uses.
OutSystems’ focus appears to be mobile websites, not mobile apps, and Gartner states the vast majority of customers use the free version of the product, with only 1,100 actual paying customers, primarily SMBs. It doesn’t seem to be playing in the same ballpark as actual MADPs. So how is it #1?
Mendix, which somewhat inexplicably was just acquired by Siemens for $700M, also seems to rank way higher than it should. They have only 750 paying customers (again, many are SMBs) according to Gartner and “reference customers gave it a below-average score for overall satisfaction with its MADP.” I mean, if reference customers grade it below-average, what would customers who don’t provide references say?
Who Got Snubbed?
A few who didn’t make the leaders list (or the list at all) kind of surprised me:
• Progress Software are the somewhat-new owners of Kinvey. And with NativeScript and NativeChat under tow, they have a pretty good set of tools for the enterprise. Our experience with NativeScript is pretty shallow, but we’ve been working with Kinvey for a while and have had good experiences, especially once you figure out some of the patterns (that don’t seem to work the way you’d expect). Factor-in Progress’ footprint in the enterprise, and I’m kinda surprised they didn’t make the Leader segment.
• Axway acquired Appcelerator about 2 years ago. I’m not sure what I think about these guys not being on the list. A few years ago—as AppC—they seemed like a top player in the space. But as SOASTA left the mobile testing space and the partnership with Crittercism (nee Apteligent, nee Cisco) fell away, much of the value of the integrated Appcelerator platform was lost. But it’s still in use in many enterprises, so I thought it might fit into the Niche Player category, especially when there are a host of names in that quadrant I don’t even recognize. Maybe putting them on the quadrant would’ve been like the last 2-year, $48M contract the Lakers gave Kobe, but sometimes respect should be paid.
The shame of it all is that the people who can typically afford to buy a Gartner subscription are enterprises who need the professional grade tools, not RMADs. And the SMBs that may not have the maturity of larger enterprises—and could really use the recommendations that come out of MQs and Forrester Waves—also aren’t getting good guidance if the analysis has to be taken with a cup—not just a few grains—of salt.
If you’re going to compare apples to oranges, perhaps a decision tree is necessary to help get to the right choice (e.g. if you’re an SMB building mobile web sites or simple apps, look at these guys. If you’re an enterprise building complex mobile apps that connect to a variety of ERP and CRM systems, look at this other group of platforms.). Maybe the MQ has lost its value or maybe it’s just this MQ that’s lost its way. But I’m hereby declaring this MQ a crime scene. And hey, if you ever need help with your own evaluation process, check out our IT Strategy for Mobile Kickstart, and give us a call.