Has Gartner's Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP) Magic Quadrant Lost It’s Magic?

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FeedHenry takes a look at Gartner's MQ for Mobile Application Development Platforms with respect to the role of the innovative young startups.

On Sept 3, 2014, Gartner released MADP Magic Quadrant (MQ), a revision from its previously published MADP MQ. The tremendous influence that the Gartner Magic Quadrants have in the market is well recognized. Inclusion in the MQ is of great value to a vendor as potential customers and partners consider this when conducting vendor evaluations.

It may come off as sour grapes or nitpicky for a vendor like FeedHenry who was not included in the MQ to complain about it, as the effort that goes into developing such research as well as the challenges in putting such documents together is enormous. There is value to these reports and this isn’t a wholesale discounting of all MQs. However, given the heavy weight such documents carry in the marketplace, it appears that these research documents too often go unchecked and unchallenged. Unfortunately this one just doesn’t pass the smell test. Sometimes the burden/weight of a required research document can pull down the eventual effectiveness.

Below are several major challenges that seem to have cropped up in this MADP MQ:

1. Putting Square Pegs into Round Holes

For an analyst, part of the job is to put things into nice, tidy buckets, count them, evaluate them, compare them, weigh them, analyze them, etc. Over the last 10-15 years with the advent of mobile, cloud and many other disparate technologies, what were once very tidy markets have become unruly and due to SaaS-based and freemium models, often unmeasurable. The enterprise applications market may be a good example. This has made an already difficult job for analysts, in some cases nearly impossible.

In this MQ report such challenges are evident. Gartner, to their credit, speaks to the apples v. oranges dilemma in evaluating vendors and admit that they have done a better job in 2014 over 2013 claiming that “the striking diversity of vendors present” was the biggest hurdle. The explanation then continues to explain how inquiries come up with Gartner around how customers are building apps. This seems to speak to the dated nature of the report – one that is evaluating platform vendors. In 2014, the story is not about the app but rather the platform, the cloud infrastructure and the ability to manage the lifecycle of the mobile solution in an open and flexible configuration. That is where the value lies, not the apps that will change every 3 months. Vendors going into enterprise customers selling apps are speaking the language of several years ago.

As this report exists for enterprise customers and partners to evaluate Mobile Application Development Platforms to roll out solutions, then apples v. oranges is a big deal. In this Square Peg/Round Hole category we have companies that are circling the market. They have some nice solutions and have some mobile assets, but they aren’t quite in this market. They are often large companies that have a lot of influence in critical, adjacent markets, but are still square pegs in round holes. Apple is a classic example here in this MADP MQ. Although listed as a Niche player, it begs the question as to why are they in this report at all?

Apple: Gartner’s criteria (in fact its first two criteria) for the MADP MQ state that “vendors that do not offer a platform that combines tools and mobile application development components into a more complete solution for developing mobile applications and provide MADP software only in conjunction with their applications are excluded.” In its own assessment “Apple’s singular focus on iOS devices and Apple's tools focus on client development do not include server-side integration or mobile back end as a service (mBaaS) capabilities.” Gartner seems to be ruling out Apple by its definition. Again, we are talking about a MADP (P stands for platform) and Apple is about apps and devices.

2. Bigger is Better Myth.

One of the biggest challenges for analysts is the inclusion of the elephant in the room - i.e.the huge company that is not quite in the market, but certainly should be. They may have a product but it is typically antiquated, perhaps has no cost to it or no revenue to speak of and, if that product was their only product they would never have been included in the report. But because they are big and can push a free and/or sub-standard product via larger, often non-mobile products they are included. Often, these companies make waves via new announcements or discussions of overhauling products that are really not in the market. Oracle is one such example:

Oracle: By Gartner’s own admission they do not see Oracle as relevant as stated in its second sentence of its profile, “Until recently, Oracle played a relatively minor role in the mobile application development landscape”. Apparently, however, major enough to include in this MADP MQ. It points to its antiquated and now reworked ADF Mobile platform and a 2013 press release of an announced Enterprise mBaaS solution as their offerings. Gartner goes on to tout their enterprise software presence as a strength despite its “initial stages of entering the mobile market”. So apparently, a revamped and previously unused ADF Mobile Framework and a recently announced MBaaS solution and its initial stages of even entering the market warrants the inclusion of Oracle in this MADP MQ. If Oracle has such a nascent offering, why wouldn’t smaller companies with 3+ years and more advanced offerings in the market be considered?

3. The Nostalgic Vendor

Another difficult vendor to expel from these market analyses is the one who was once on top and has gradually slipped. The analyst believes that they still have enough to hold on to warrant consideration when the reality is they have been on the list for too long. Their old position or goodwill built up in the market keeps them on the radar – almost a sentimental favorite that is going to turn it around or can still tell that same large customer story from many moons ago. Often times, the inclusion criteria is relaxed or stretched or somehow interjected as legacy carryover revenue or customer from yesteryear. Pegasystems/Antenna stand up in this category.

Pegasystems (Antenna Software): Antenna and now Pegasystems, identified as a Leader, seems way off the mark. The legacy MEAP market has been deemed dead and Antenna was the poster child for this space. The once high flyer just couldn’t pivot fast enough to more agile and modern platforms leveraging the latest open technologies. The company was sold in a fire sale for $27.7 million. In the waning months/year that Antenna existed and its transition to Pegasystems it is hard to believe that they have kept up with the criteria Gartner has laid out – whether its revenue, customers or inquiry traction. Perhaps the inquiries from customers that Gartner received focused on whether Antenna would continue as a going entity? There is no question that in the market today much of the rip and replace work being done in MADP is happening at Pegas’ expense. It would be hard to find consensus from customers, partners or anyone understanding this market that Pega could be considered a leader in this space.

4. Excluding the Smaller Innovators

Perhaps the most difficult and most egregious of offenses is leaving off the smaller innovator that typically has some of the most impressive and complete software solutions and is at the forefront of this technology. The polar opposite of the Nostalgic Vendor, the Smaller Innovators have been ignored too long and discovered too late. Although they compete well with the biggest Leaders in the MQ, they are short on the inflated criteria leaving out discussions of great technologies. This is particularly evident in a growing but fairly smaller market where $25 million in revenue is a high bar (and one the Nostalgic Vendor realistically hasn’t seen in some years). It’s no surprise that we believe FeedHenry (and several other mBaaS players like AnyPresence, for example) fit the bill as a Small Innovator. In many cases these Small Innovators are not only competing and beating many of these large players but are also ripping and replacing the legacy MEAP platforms that have failed to deliver. Perhaps more shocking is that in the market for MADP, many of these players aren't even at the table. Where a lot of the flow of the buzz aand inquiries has hit many of the Smaller Innovators, they are just a “mention” as vendors that were "considered" in the MQ. Seems to be a genuine disservice and the inevitable, “Why Aren’t You in the Gartner MQ?” comes up.

5. Others

Although happy to see a smaller player like Appcelerator on the list its curious as most of their revenue that gets them to the criteria was earned not through enterprise MADP revenue but in this case developer garnered revenue from its Titanium platform. Appcelerator has done a good job in garnering more than 600,000 developers, but has its work cut out for them to transition to the enterprise space.

If we can all agree that the purpose of the Gartner MQ exists to assist customers and partners to make key decisions on vendor selections then the criteria and the actual vendors evaluated seem out of sorts. In every market there will be younger, better vendors out there, yet the default tends to be the larger, legacy and sometimes nostalgic vendor that is highlighted. To say the smaller vendor isn’t to be considered in this market seems not only shortsighted but not based in reality.

The Gartner MQs are indeed important influential documents, but despite the snubs from the report, FeedHenry has fought the good fight for inclusion in some of the largest customer and partner deals happening today - and have won. In some cases coming into the scene later in the process provides the opportunity to demonstrate the strong technical and high mobile/cloud IQ and eventually win out, which prompts a different inflexion of the same question, “How are you not in the Gartner MQ?” Amazingly we have succeeded despite it but we recognize the power of a truly inclusive MQ to our prospects to help them make choices.

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Kristen Muckleroy
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Steve Drake
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