A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the general availability of PowerApps, a self-service mobile application development platform included in Office365 and Dynamics365. At the time, PowerApps represented a strong differentiator with competitive offerings such as Google G Suite. Just a dew days ago, Google announced its alternative to PowerApps called App Maker. Thw new platform enables the self-serivce implementation of mobile apps that leverage data from the G Suite platform.
Timing and capabilities make App Maker a clear response to Microsoft PowerApps but the release also opens a series of interesting posibilities for G Suite applications. The new platform allows a business user or citizen developer to implement a mobile application using a drag and drop interface that complies with Google’s famous Material Design model. App Marker also provides new backend services such as Google Tables, a structured database based on Google Drive. Additionally, App Maker enables out-of-the-box integration with dozens of Google Services such as Gmail, Google Forms, Google Drive, BigQuery and many others. Testing, distribution and analytics are also capabilities included in App Maker platform.
The Second Act of Self-Service Mobile App Development Platforms
Self-service mobile app development platforms have been part of the enterprise mobile space for years. Despite the excitement generated by some of the early self-service mobile app dev platforms, we can argue that none of them have been very successful or have dominated the market. Now technologies such as App Marker, PowerApps and others [App Cloud, Mendix, Appian, etc] are driving a new iteration of this model for the implementation of mobile apps.
Platforms such as Google App Maker or Microsoft PowerApps bring a unique value proposition that could help mitigate some of the challenges experienced by the first-generation of self-service mobile app development stacks:
— Large Distribution: G Suite and Office365 counts millions of businesses worldwide as customers which offers a unique distribution channel for platforms such as App Maker or PowerApps.
— Service Integration: Technologies like App Marker and PowerApps include integration with dozens of services in the G Suite and Office365 platforms respectively which are actively used by millions of users.
— Using a Familiar Interface: G Suite or Office365 are more than simple distribution channels for technologies such as App Maker or PowerApps; the platforms also offer a familiar environment for users/developers to implement mobile applications without learning a new toolset.
— Robust Infrastructure: Infrastructure aspects such as security, scalability or monitoring are enabled by App Maker and PowerApps using the same underlying infrastructure powering G Suite and Office365.
What Could be Next for App Maker?
Google app Maker seems like a very robust first iteration of a self-service, data-drive mobile app development platform. There are some interesting idea that could be a great addition to its next version:
— Google Cognitive APIs Integration: Leveraging Google Cloud Natural Language Processing, voice and speech APIs from App Maker apps could be interesting in many business scenarios.
— Firebase Integration: Some of Firebase’s services such as data sync could be relevant to App Maker apps.
— Alllo Integration: Processing Allo’s commands in App Maker will offer users a new channel to interact with the platform.
— A/B Testing: Simple A/B testing services for developers building applications on App Maker could help to improve the long-term viability of the platform.