The Future of App Development Isn’t Low-Code. It’s Open Code.

Read why the future of app development isn’t low-code, but rather Open Code, which brings together the best of low-code and open source.

Max Lynch, CEO & Co-founder of Ionic,
Max Lynch
CEO & Co-founder, Ionic

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Gartner Application Innovation and Solutions Summit—a multi-day virtual conference bringing together IT and business leaders to address the challenges most critical to enterprise app development.

While analyst firms like Gartner usually highlight the benefits of low-code platforms to bring enterprise applications to market, I presented a different position. I believe the future of app development isn’t low-code but rather something we call “Open Code,” and that the prevalence of low-code development for enterprise apps has been grossly overstated.

The problems with app development today

The vast majority of mobile apps are built on open source technologies and open platforms like JavaScript (Ionic, Capacitor, etc.), Kotlin, and Swift. It’s the professional choice—taught in universities and boot camps all over the world—and limitless when it comes to building software.

So why is low-code talked about so much given that almost 100 percent of apps in the App Store and Google Play store are built using open platforms? 

Because mobile app development is hard! 

The mobile ecosystem is complex. Developers need to juggle many different devices, APIs, SDKs, sensors, and other elements that require deep knowledge when building apps.

There are also many platforms and form factors to consider. From iOS to Android and all of the versions and devices in between, managing so many environments can be extremely challenging.

For teams building on open source, the majority of these technologies are built by volunteers with little funding and little interest or know-how when it comes to helping enterprise customers succeed. This means there’s no dedicated support or enterprise-add ons, and no guarantees.

Above all, a lack of talent is the biggest challenge, and the choice of app dev platform can have a critical impact here. For example, only six to eight percent of all professional developers specialize in native mobile development. According to this 2018 Stripe survey of C-suite executives and developers, “access to developers is a bigger threat to business success than access to capital.”

All of these roadblocks add up to extreme production costs, slow time-to-market performance, and sustainability concerns. 

Low-code claims to solve many of the problems with app development

On the surface, there seem to be many benefits to using a low-code approach to app development.

Low-code is curated. Following the official guides and tools, developers can reduce complexity and decision fatigue and generally build something quickly.

Low-code requires less expertise. Competition for the six to eight percent of the top developers dwindles when apps can be built by newer developers and even non-developers.

Partners are available to help developers succeed. In the professional developer world, very few companies are in the business of helping developers. With commercial low-code platforms, developers can find the support they need when things go wrong.

But low-code vendors overpromise

The reality of low-code is often far less rosy than the picture painted by vendors or industry analysts.

In reality, low-code platforms are closed ecosystems. Vendors lock companies into their ecosystem considerably, forcing them to be entirely dependent on their services. Since enterprise low-code platforms aren’t being taught in schools or developer bootcamps, there are no network effects that can help developers learn from each other or enable companies to hire from a pool of developers familiar with the low-code platform.

Applications built with low-code are inflexible and brittle. Though the drag and drop features are functional and easy in the beginning, more complex ideas and features cannot always be created using simple low-code tools and teams often hit walls and have to move back to code.

The custom code features available in most low-code platforms are often extremely basic and not aligned with standard professional engineering toolsets so the code they output is unmaintainable and not familiar to engineers in the hiring market.

And if the low-code vendor disappears tomorrow? You’re left completely high and dry, having invested in a niche platform with no presence in the broader professional software market.

The future of enterprise app development brings together the best of open source and low-code. It’s something we’re calling Open Code.

With Open Code, developers and enterprise companies can expect:

Open standards. Open Code is based on widely known technologies like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, which are being taught in schools and boot camps and which have the largest pool of professional engineers to hire from. It is built on an open source core, allowing the flexibility and limitless capabilities of open source without the complexity.

Developer-friendly ecosystems. It is accessible by any developer, without niche skills required, and aligned with the way they prefer to build software.

Enterprise-ready solutions. Companies building mission-critical applications can get the support, consulting, and training they need to bring their ideas to life. With Open Code, add-ons and integrations cater to company needs.

And the leader in Open Code is Ionic.

Ionic: the Open Code leader

At Ionic, enterprise companies and developers get everything they need to build incredible enterprise apps. Ionic provides developers and companies with app development toolkits, pre-built solutions for security, services to help multiple developers in tandem, customer-loved support with SLAs, and more.

Ionic can be used to build new apps or extend existing ones. Web teams can now participate in building or changing company legacy applications while building new ones from scratch.

Many companies already have web developers on their teams. With Ionic, they can streamline development and leverage their existing talent to start shipping new features and applications.

Ionic is powered by open source. The core Ionic development kit is one of the most popular open source projects in the world. With over 10 million apps created and 5 million developers using Ionic, there are powerful benefits to plugging into such an extensive and knowledgeable network.

Ionic is enterprise-ready. Ionic has an amazing support team, consulting and training available, and trusted integrations and add-ons for your enterprise environment.

Ionic is the Open Code leader and the future of enterprise app development. If you’re ready to dive in, connect with an Ionic App Strategist!

About Ionic

Ionic is the leading cross-platform developer solution with 5 million developers worldwide. It powers 15% of apps in the app store, not including thousands of apps built internally at enterprises for every line-of-business need. Ionic is unique in that it takes a web-first approach, leveraging HTML, CSS, and Javascript to build high-quality iOS, Android, desktop, and Progressive Web Apps.

Ionic is a leader in enterprise app development. Thousands of enterprise customers use Ionic to build mission-critical apps for their customers, both external and internal.

You’re in good company. Ionic powers millions of apps at some of the smartest companies in the world.

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