MEAP Market To See Action in 2010

By by Evan Koblentz — January 28, 2010

Jan. 28, 2010
 
What should IT departments expect from mobile middleware vendors in 2010? We sought the opinion of Gartner analyst Bill Clark, who recently co-wrote the report Magic Quadrant for Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms.
 
Gartner puts Sybase in the coveted top-right corner of its quadrant, indicating execution and vision. Antenna Software and Syclo are effectively tied for second place -- Syclo is ranked ahead of Antenna for execution; Antenna leads Syclo in vision. Spring Wireless is notable for being right behind Antenna, while Research In Motion and Microsoft are also good at execution but trail in vision, Gartner notes.
 
Businesses should not feel pressured to select from the top vendors, as there are many situations where another vendor may be a good fit. "I can't really say categorically that Sybase is the right choice. Look at these platforms, look at your in-house expertise with the level of programming... that would shape which vendor fits better," Clark says.
 
For example, if an organization has an existing team of veteran Java programmers, or is already a Microsoft shop, then the best MEAP provider may be the vendor aligned with those skills, Clark says. SAP, Pyxis Mobile, Oracle, and IBM are some of the second-tier providers whose products may work best for specific implementations. Apple is beginning to contend with its iPhone SDK, Google is also expected to make noise this year for its Android system, and even Salesforce.com could be relevant if that company invests in development tools, he says.
 
Organizations wondering where to start should consider what their peers are doing. "In the enterprise, the CRM, field service in particular, logistics, direct store delivery, consumer package goods, enterprise asset maintenance, the general sales force -- those are the line-of-business applications that I see most often that are mobilized." Programs for healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing are frequently mobilized on-location instead of remotely, Clark explains.
 
Clark's other advice for enterprises is to not be fooled non-comprehensive suppliers. Many companies offer mobile device management, application connectors, thin-client products that require persistent network access, or standalone development environments, without the full suite that Gartner requires by its definition. And there are numerous companies that may have some parts of the whole system, but are simply too small to be safe bets -- only vendors with at least 100 employees and $20 million in annual revenue should be considered, the firm states.
 
However there are some X-factors that could change the MEAP landscape. Sybase's ability to clarify its many parts, Antenna's ability to reconcile their legacy products with those acquired from Dexterra, and the success or failure of SAP's complex partnering strategy are all difficult to predict, as the rise or stagnation of HTML 5 and the impact of consumer technologies such as gesture input, Clark says.
 
Clark adds that he saw some surprises in 2009. "In the last year, year-and-a-half, one surprise is that RIM had taken some market share away from Microsoft in field service," which is significant because Windows dominates the rugged device market. That trend could continue and other smartphone platforms could grab more share, or Microsoft could cause device makers to pause if Windows Mobile 7.0 is revealed soon.
 
By this time next year, Sybase and Syclo could pull away from the field if they execute well with SAP, Clark predicts. Antenna Software could lose some ground if its Dexterra digestions isn't smooth, and Spring Wireless could rise back into the top-right quadrant, he says.
 
Market-wise, customers can rest assured that the top MEAP players are growing, not merely holding on, despite the tough macro economy. "There will be a return to growth, an up tick, in that the market slowed down to maybe 7% growth after having a few years of 17% all the way up to 35%," Clark says. "We'll see a lot of investments and upgrades." 

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