4 Categories of App Platforms

By Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility, Yankee Group — September 30, 2013

Back in July, I wrote here about a survey Yankee Group had just undertaken whereby we independently sourced and sample customers of 10 mobile application platforms—Adobe Phonegap, Appcelerator, Antenna Software, IBM Worklight, KonyOne, SAP, Salesforce’s Force.com, Sencha, Spring Mobile Solutions and Xamarin, asking them to evaluate their platform vendor on more than 30 metrics.
We have since been crunching the data and the result is a new scorecard, giving each vendor both a compounded current and a future “Return on Mobility” (RoM) score—our ROI measure for mobility.
With more money being spent on mobile projects, more money being spent on mobile applications and more money being invested in the kinds of platforms we are evaluating, this marketplace is a perfect one to apply the scorecard to. It is also a perfect candidate because in this time of flux with so much in legacy IT hindering companies’ mobile innovation, enterprises need forward-looking guidance.
Data Inventory
We are seeing a real mismatch between what IT can offer and the needs of the business, as many companies are encumbered by a legacy technological estate with data locked in inflexible core systems. Mobility can free this data and turn it into critical corporate inventory.
This “data as inventory” requires enterprise IT to be measured in a new way—from evaluating the costs of internal systems to determining how continuous returns can be generated by recycling thisdata inventory to iterate new products and offer more compelling mobile services.
In this shift, traditional financial metrics lose their relative value, with new metrics like RoM better able to measure the business impact of continuous investments in a more agile cycle of product and service development. With the traditional MEAP model of proprietary technology, binary architectures and on-premise installations obsolete, a new model for middleware is needed to enable this. Our scorecard results help separate out the market.
Who’s Who
We split the landscape into four categories —Leaders, Contenders, Challengers and Niche Players:

  • Leaders: No one yet receives such unanimously positive scores as to quality for leadership status.
  • Contenders:  They address early requirements to mobilize the backend. There is a clear pairing of Salesforce and IBM receiving the highest current RoM scores with customers looking for the synergies in using their platform for mobilizing their backends.
  • Challengers: They offer quick targeted RoM. Following the three Contenders are SAP (not far behind the top two), the pairing of Sencha and Spring Mobile Solutions and Adobe. In contrast to the above tiers, their results are based less on their core enterprise features and more on how they provide rapid development, deployment and RoM to be realized.
  • Niche Players: Older and newer platforms fall into this category. The scoring for Antenna Software and Kony reflects how they fall between the two broad approaches of the Contenders and Challengers. Among the younger platforms we evaluated, Xamarin has some work to do to execute on their vision.
Blueprint for Future Success
Before giving a snapshot of the future scores— the conditions we think will underlie this future success are varied. We believe all applications will be mobilized, the application lifecycle will become critical, companies will look to integrated platforms along with open standards and interoperability to gain longevity.
Working with these assumptions, Yankee Group has created a blueprint we believe will characterize the leading mobile applications platforms of the future, characterized by open and extensible architectures, an API management and data orchestration layer, extensive developer libraries, agnosticism to tools, infrastructures and standards, integrated testing and analytics and a rich ecosystem.
Based on this future blueprint, we rated the same 10 providers as to how they are set with their current capabilities and future vision to realize this over the next two years.
The Contenders
Appcelerator leaps into the Contenders category, winning on thought leadership but has more work to do to execute on its promising vision.  Other companies become contenders with broad convergence around the future market direction. Salesforce, IBM and SAP are all have strong visions for enterprise mobilization and competitors will find it difficult to dislodge them.
A tight pack follows on from the main Contenders, however. The leading Contenders are joined by Antenna Software and Kony, which, as the early MEAPs have had to make possibly the hardest decisions of all to remain competitive. Xamarin and Sencha also have the assets to keep not far behind.       
The Alternatives
Challengers Adobe and Spring Mobile Solutions offer alternative models. For the investments companies make in them, both can offer strong ROI, however both will become more niche in their offerings and therefore their addressable markets will be smaller than the other vendors evaluated.
Guidance for the Enterprise
It’s important to recognize that not all offerings are equal; not all available platforms do the same things. Enterprises need to understand this and choose carefully based on an analysis of their future requirements.
Look beyond SOA for your architectural evolution. IT architectures need to evolve to be more agile, more flexible and more capable of orchestrating granular and contextual data in their delivery to individual mobile devices.
Think of your corporate data as a critical part of your inventory and evaluate mobile application platforms with this in mind, rather than getting stuck investing in business systems and application platforms as capital costs.
Understand your data and API gaps. With APIs increasingly delivering the data to mobile applications, companies need to actively manage their API value chain.
Measure your platform return. Astonishingly, the majority of companies do not currently do this. Our data shows that those that do are more likely to be satisfied with their solution. (An executive summary of the research can be downloaded here.)
Related Content
Scorecard for Mobile Apps
Apps, Apps Everywhere
Mobility is Paying Off
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