Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms names Syclo, SAP and Antenna as leaders in mobile application development platforms, while Apple, Google and RIM fall in the niche players category.

Strengths

In the April 2012 report, Gartner laid out strengths for the various mobile app development platforms (MADP), acknowledging Adobe for its strong cross-platform capability that bridges the desktop with the mobile device design studio. Antenna has one of the more powerful and intuitive app development studios, with a strong vision for where the MADP market is headed -- specifically, merging B2C and B2E requirements. With its development environment available as a free download, Appcelerator gets props for its focus and financial backing.

Enterprises adopting the iOS product works in favor of Apple. "The App Store remains the benchmark for application availability and security, and Apple has data protection features (such as AES 256-bit encryption and complex passcodes) built into the iPhone and iPad," the report says.

Gartner describes Kansas City-based DSI as "the largest MADP vendor that you have never heard of." Customers consider DSI's dcLINK MADP to be solid in production and they like that the company has extensive experience building mobile apps that extend ERP systems.

The Dojo Toolkit, which is available as open source or commercially distributed with IBM's WebSphere, gets points for its open framework and for being an open source project based on HTML, JavaScript and CSS standards.

The Google MADP is acknowledged for offering Java developers a robust development environment, and IBM's acquisition of Worklight indicates the company has "renewed vigor" in its mobile platform strategy.

And Cautions

Microsoft gets kudos for its "long-standing relationships with enterprise IT departments, a huge base of desktops/notebooks, a large installed base for enterprise mobile solutions and a growing base of Windows Phone devices/users in the smartphone market, including continued dominance of Windows Mobile Embedded in the ruggedized handheld market." On the other hand, long-standing relationships only get you so far. "Uncertainly around the direction for Windows Phone 7, Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded Compact 7 (Windows CE) and Windows Embedded Handheld (Windows Mobile) has caused a number of OEMs and customers to move to the Android platform and other third parties," explains Gartner.

Like Microsoft, RIM gets marks for name recognition, but dings for its "unrealistic" single-platform application development environment. SAP, on the other hand, has the most flexible app development environment, but high mobile pricing.

Netbiscuits has a strong B2C vision, but isn't a good option for B2E apps and Gartner points out the potential for lock-in to Netbiscuits' proprietary markup language, BiscuitML.

The 2012 report shows that a company's reputation isn't nearly as important as its ability to adapt to a changing market. Vendors with more open development environments can more easily move ahead, while industry veterans flounder to find footing in the increasingly important mobile market.