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The Big Five in tech (faamg) bet on low-code development

jcabot profile image Jordi Cabot Originally published at modeling-languages.com ・4 min read

You know when something is getting "hot" when all major tech companies (i.e. the Big Five: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google)  invest and build solutions for it. And this is exactly what is happening right now with the software modeling and low-code market. Let's see what are the solutions / initiatives each of these companies are proposing, each of them at a different level and targeting a different market but going the modeling route nonetheless!.

Microsoft PowerApps

PowerApps is the no-code solution from Microsoft, targeting business users. As they put it, you can "begin with your data model and business processes to automatically generate immersive, responsive applications that can run on any device. Use a simple drag-and-drop designer to customize business entities and tailor the user experience to specific roles".

Create sophisticated apps from your data

IMHO, PowerApps is more of a way to connect and exchange data among different business tools from Microsoft itself. Still, this is more than enough for a large variety of scenarios and many users than just need some quick tailoring of existing solutions. In the end, we should not forget that Access and Excel are already used as "development" tools (even "modeling" ones) by many people.

Google App Maker

In short, App Maker is the PowerApps version of Google. With App Maker you can easily integrate a variety of Google tools and services, including data-driven apps on top of Google Cloud SQL. Templates, drag-and-drop UI design and declarative data modeling are available to designers to accelerate app development.

App Maker Screenshot (1)

Apple - SwiftUI

Better Apps. Less code. This is how Apple defines SwiftUI. With SwiftUI you can build user interfaces for any Apple device using a minimal declarative syntax, drag & drop support and real-time preview (WYSIWYG approach). It reminds me of Quid but an Apple scale :-)

SwiftUI syntax

It's a more modest low-code approach than some of the other companies in this post but it shows that nobody can escape the democratization of software development movement. I wouldn't dare to call it citizen developers, we're not yet there, but we're indeed going in this direction.

Facebook

Facebook is a single-product company so it doesn't make sense for Facebook to invest in developing a modeling tool to build external applications. But Facebook has indeed created React Native a cross-platform solution for mobile apps. As Facebook itself had to provide "native"-like versions of its software it made sense to invest and release React Native to simplify this process.

Amazon

Amazon is the strangest case. Given the plethora of services they offer and the need to combine and orchestrate them, one would expect company-wide support for modeling tools. But it's not the case. They do have some declarative syntaxes for UI design (see the Alexa Presentation Language) but mostly ignore other potential useful modeling solutions. For instance, I guess something similar to this notation to describe Kubernetes deployment would also make sense in the Amazon context. They may see themselves more of as an infrastructure provider so they don't care what tools users employ in the initial steps of the development process as long as they deploy and run the designer services in their cloud. I still think the situation will change soon and will see an increasing modeling interest coming out of Amazon (in fact, there are indeed significant rumors about Amazon having a secretive "AWS for everyone" low-code project).

Note that another benefit of the solutions by these Big Tech companies is that their pricing model is more reasonable than that of other low-code solutions. These companies make money selling their core products and services, these tool builders are just another way to get more users to their ecosystem and to offer them additional value so that they stay.

And these are not the only big software companies releasing new low-code or no-code tools. For instance, Oracle has a long tradition of selling modeling and code-generation tools targeting the Oracle database and the surrounding ecosystem (Oracle Designer for Oracle Forms quickly comes to mind) and have now released a Visual Builder for mobile apps targeting less tech-savvy people.

For more on software modeling and low-code development, follow my blog

Discussion

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heikokanzler profile image
Heiko Kanzler 🇪🇺

There has been some really good No code / Low Code environments around for a long time. Think of Apples Hypercard, File Maker, Fox Pro, and my favorite of all time (still!) Novell AppWare (earlier named Microbrew / programmers workshop / Serius Developer)

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AppWare

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Jordi Cabot Author

Hi, just curious, what makes you like Appware so much?

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Heiko Kanzler 🇪🇺

It's a discontinued product for decades now, but what I liked was that it has already solved cross platform development problems in the 90s. The final builds have been very small and while you needed a big screen for "development" (remember: 12 to 14 inch have been common this days, 15 to 17" have been expensive and 19" only common for DTP).

The term "application developmen" came up this time, low code / no code wasn't a term this days. You could easily click together a full business application in days. I could even write services and background application (I used it to adapt serial devices to File Maker Pro applications).

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Michiel Hendriks

Low-code is and always has been a fad. It mostly works for some things, it never makes big traction for the big companies who offer it besides other products.

So expect the these big companies abandon their low code platforms, again.
Bet on the "smaller" companies whose main business is the low code tools/platform they offer.

Microsoft, Apple, and Google have killed of their low code projects multiple times already.

In the good old days most low code tools were standalone, and not saas. Which means you did not lose your project when the low code product was shut down. With SaaS, and especially the big five companies, you should not expect a long life for your project.

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Andrew Davis

Another oldie, but goodie is FileMaker Pro. It's wholly owned by Apple and has been around since the 80s. Lots of small businesses use it.

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Jordi Cabot Author

Thanks Andrew. I do know FileMaker but I wasn't aware it was now owned by Apple!

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heikokanzler profile image
Heiko Kanzler 🇪🇺

Oh yes. I made a substantial amount of money developing File Maker solutions. It was Claris first, then Apple and now File maker Inc. Still owned by Apple.

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matthijsewoud profile image
⚡️

I would add Apple’s Shortcuts app to this list. It’s absolutely incredible what that thing can do.

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Jordi Cabot Author

You're right. Didn't know this one but after checking it out, it deserves to be in the list. thanks!

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Jared Walters

Odd, I've always heard it as FAANG. When did Netflix get replaced by Microsoft?

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Jordi Cabot Author

What I found is this: "The acronym, coined by Goldman Sachs, includes these companies for two reasons. First of all, the big five tech companies make up as much as 13% of the value of the whole S&P500 by market capitalization."

Anyway, I didn't check but I guess Netflix has also some low-code initiative ;-)