shuffling cards
Gartner named seven leaders in its mobile application development platform MQ in a report which saw vendors rise and fall PHOTO: Quinn Dombrowski

Gartner named seven leaders in mobile app development platforms (MADP) in a magic quadrant distinguished by a high level of movement.

Gartner defines MADPs according to the capabilities they provide, namely the "tools, technologies, components and services that together constitute the critical elements of a platform for creating custom mobile apps (that is, .ipa and .apk binary files), as well as mobile web apps or sites."

Cornerstone of an Omnichannel Approach

In researching and writing the Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Mobile App Development Platforms 2017, Gartner analysts Jason Wong, Van L. Baker, Adrian Leow and Marty Resnick evaluated 35 vendors. Seventeen of them — Adobe, Axway, DSI, GeneXus, IBM, i-exceed, Kony, Mendix, Microsoft, MobileFrame, Oracle, OutSystems, Pegasystems, Progress, Red Hat, Salesforce and SAP — made the cut.

Three new vendors made it into the quadrant this year and others were dropped. GeneXus, i-exceed and MobileFrame landed in the MQ and Appian, Backbase and Embarcadero were dropped. Almost half of the vendors that remain have moved to a different section of the MQ.

MADPs, according to Gartner, are the cornerstone of enterprise mobility strategy and “as wearables, bots and conversational UI channels need to be folded into the omnichannel approach of these platforms and as mobility permeates deeper in other enterprise systems and platforms.”

It is worth noting too that some of the independent vendors in this MQ may become subjects of acquisition.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile App Development 2017
PHOTO: Gartner (June 2017)

Meet the Mobile App Development Platform Leaders

Kony

Austin-based Kony leads the Leaders Quadrant in "completeness of vision." Gartner analysts liked the broad ranges of use cases it provides for multiple industries as well as its focus on new interactions and omnichannel experiences with both front-end components and back-end service support.

Kony MADP consists of: Kony Visualizer (a front-end IDE), Kony Mobile Fabric (back-end services) and the Kony Nitro Engine (an omnichannel engine for mobile and web). The analysts wrote that "Kony MADP offers one of the most powerful cross-platform IDEs to support high-productivity and professional development approaches."

While Gartner recognized Kony as one of the largest and oldest independent MADP vendors, it also noted it has taken on a significant number of venture capital investments and that its exit strategy to become a public may be of some concern. In addition, the aforementioned invites the question as to whether Kony might be acquired by a larger company.

Salesforce

San Francisco-based Salesforce ranked second in "completeness of vision" and was outflanked only by Kony, Mendix and OutSystems in “ability to execute." Gartner analysts liked the way the CRM giant executed across its large user base and noted that Salesforce "exhibits forward-thinking vision for its MADP by enabling event-driven intelligence, workflow automation, and predictive action and personalization through additions such as Apache Kafka on Heroku and Salesforce Einstein."

Of concern were “that costs can be high and also add up quickly for new or additional functionalities,” and that "detailed app analytics, such as customer segmentation, screen heat maps and behavioral analytics (such as retention/cohort analysis) third-party products are (still) required."

OutSystems

Atlanta-based OutSystems outranked every vendor in the MQ in terms of "ability to execute." This is notable because in 2016, Gartner placed OutSystems in the Visionaries quadrant — which means that in just one year its ability to execute has skyrocketed.

OutSystems offers a visual modeling approach toward building apps that leverages HTML and Apache Cordova. On the backend, the vendor provides mobile services and produces SDKs for third-party tools.

While the analysts highlighted a number of innovative features, some of the more impressive include artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, an in-app feedback capture mechanism, which feeds into a project management tool to help developers and the business users work together and OutSystems' ability to support web and mobile apps in the same environment.

But shortcomings, such as the ratio of customers using its Free versus Premium product and its release cycle, caused some concerns for the analysts.

Mendix

Like OutSystems, Boston-based Mendix transitioned from the Visionaries quadrant to the Leaders quadrant in the last year. Gartner analysts noted that the vendor has “compelling vision for citizen development, agile development workflows and multichannel support.”  Mendix offers a Web Modeler tool for citizen developers and its Desktop Modeler tool for professional developers. Mendix's solution leverages the open source Cloud Foundry platform as well as Apache Cordova, along with proprietary software.

Primarily a SaaS solution, Mendix stands out for its market responsiveness via frequent updates, its app store that includes more than 400 components, among other things.

The analyst noted Mendix typically markets to line-of-business rather than to IT and it lacks specific vertical industry offerings among their concerns.

Oracle

Redwood City, Calif.-based Oracle barely squeaked into the Leaders Quadrant this year due to its increased range of Vision. Its ability to execute is reportedly on par with Salesforce, and a tad better than that of Microsoft and Progress.

Oracle's MADP is cloud-based and used primarily by customers of Oracle Public Cloud, according to the analysts. Of note is the interplay between Oracle's Mobile Cloud Service (MCS), Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX) and its MADP. What has yet to come, though, is integration of its MCS, JET and MAX products as well as its Application Cloud Builder Service and the possible integration of its recently acquired CloudMonkey (a provider of testing tools).

While the analysts applauded Oracle's distinguishing capabilities around chatbot support, predictive analytics and adaptive intelligence, they noted its lack of compliance to regulations such as HIPAA and go-to-market partners.

Microsoft

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft kept its place in the Leaders Quadrant and was recognized for retaining the staff of Xamarin, the mobile app development provider it acquired in 2016.

Microsoft's MADP portfolio is broad and deep including Xamarin, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Mobile Center for lifecycle management and DevOps activities for mobile apps, with tightly integrated testing (via Xamarin Test Cloud) and analytics (HockeyApp).

Progress

Bedford, Mass.-based Progress Telerik platform, which the company has open-sourced, includes the high-productivity Telerik AppBuilder and NativeScript. Gartner reported on the front end, Progress Telerik platform provides “UI components, including a Kendo UI component for the web, a Xamarin UI component, and native UI components for iOS, Android and Windows 10.” 

On the back end, Progress offers a gamut of services including mobile analytics, a device-testing cloud and web content management.

The analysts praised the platform's predictive analytics, machine-learning capabilities, development tools and more. On the downside, the analysts noted Progress needs to sell more software over a wider geography.