How developers’ support needs change with experience

Developers have a wide variety of support and learning needs that evolve as they progress through their careers. Here, we’ll look at some of the best ways to help developers build on their skills by answering their technical questions, creating a valuable community that they can integrate with, and providing professional certifications as proof of learning. In a highly competitive job market, vendors can demonstrate value to developers by helping them to build on their skills and get an advantage in the job market.

Here, we take a look at data from two of our most recent Developer Nation surveys. In our Q1 2021 survey, we asked developers, amongst many other topics, how they prefer to communicate with vendors about technical topics. In our Q3 2021 survey, we took a deeper dive into developers’ views on what makes great technical certifications and what are the key features of a successful community. The data here is only a small sample of what we collect, so if this sparks some interesting questions for you, then please get in touch.

It’s a matter of experience

Data from our Q3 2021 survey, which was fielded between June and August 2021, shows that overall, there are more early-career developers (those with 0-2 years of experience) than highly-experienced developers (those with 11 or more years of experience). Developers with different levels of experience undoubtedly have different support needs (and we’ll come to this later), but taking a global perspective on experience levels risks missing some interesting regional variations.

South Asia and Western Europe sit at opposite ends of the experience spectrum – South Asia has the largest proportion of inexperienced developers, and Western Europe has the smallest. This means that when creating a regional strategy, not only should you think about the cultural and economic differences that exist between regions, but also, due to their experience levels, developers will have very different support needs.Developers in Western Europe are more experienced than average and far more experienced than those in South AsiaTechnically correct is the best kind of correct

We see here how developers’ support needs evolve as they gain experience. In fact, communicating with vendors about technical questions becomes more important as developers gain experience – more experienced developers are very likely working on more challenging projects and, as such, more often require expert support. What’s interesting is which communication channels become more important.

Email is consistently the most important, regardless of experience level. It seems that the power of direct, asynchronous communication is clear to all developers, though it does become more important to more experienced developers, as well as to older developers (and age is, of course, correlated with experience). On the other hand, other direct but synchronous communication methods such as online chat retain their importance to developers of all experience levels (but fall in importance for the oldest), whilst live interactive coding sessions only fall out of favour amongst the most experienced. Not every communication method is created equally, and neither is every technical question. Irrespective of their experience levels, developers want to engage directly to have their technical questions answered and are happy to do synchronously or asynchronously.

Issue trackers and code repositories nearly quadruple in importance for the most experienced developers when compared with the least experienced. Here, you have experienced developers asking their technical questions through established open-source channels that may feel inaccessible to less-experienced developers. There’s definitely scope to widen participation amongst inexperienced developers in this fundamental pillar of software development. We also see that Q&A sites steadily increase in importance as developers become more experienced. That’s not to say that inexperienced developers aren’t going to StackOverflow – they’re still using such sites to get information; it’s just that they are more likely to simply consume rather than ask technical questions of vendors.

Direct communication via email or chat is most important to developers at all experience levels

A sense of community

Interacting with vendors or peers through a code repository or on a Q&A site is one of the many ways in which developers interact with their community. Community support is a powerful facilitator of learning and development for many developers and is as much a source of inspiration as it is camaraderie. We see that developers of differing experience levels have very different ideas about what they want from a community, but collaboration and support are two of the most stable and important features to developers of all experience levels.

But experienced and inexperienced developers lean on their community support network in different ways. A knowledgeable community becomes more important to developers as they gain experience – here, these most experienced developers likely find more value in a community that can help them answer complex questions. On the other hand, inexperienced developers are more likely to look for strong leadership in a community – they are likely looking to more experienced members for guidance and learning opportunities.

Strong leadership and interactivity are less important aspects of a community to experienced developers

Certifiably important

Vendor support and community are just two of the myriad ways that developers build their skills throughout their careers, but in an increasingly competitive professional environment, many developers study for professional certifications to get an edge. Such certifications are important to developers at different stages of their professional life – early-career developers are likely looking to distinguish themselves from the masses, whilst seasoned professionals may want to protect their lucrative career or even switch specialisation. Regardless, because of certifications’ wide appeal, developers at all experience levels similarly agree on the importance of certifications being suitable for a variety of learning styles.

On the other hand, industry recognition, online availability, and affordability are three of the most important features of a professional certification program, and they become more important as developers gain experience. This demonstrates that as developers mature, they become more focused on the core aspects of professional certifications. We also see how their job-seeking habits change. The importance of recognition on job boards rises steadily from zero to five years of experience before falling sharply afterwards. This suggests that after around five years in the industry, developers have built their professional network and are less reliant on job boards, though the professional credibility of a certification is still paramount.

Developers at all experience levels recognise that many learning styles should be catered for

What does this all mean?

Here, we’ve seen that there is great variation in the experience levels of developers across the world, as well as between different geographical regions. We’ve also learnt that developers of different experience levels have very different views about the type of support they want to receive from vendors and from their communities, whether they are asking technical questions or becoming certified. Therefore, you should look at the experience levels of your user base and use this to figure out how best to support them. However, experience isn’t the whole story; our extensive research shows that a plethora of factors influence developers’ needs and decisions. Developers’ roles, level of decision-making seniority, industry, and technology choices all impact their needs for support. Understanding developers’ needs and behaviour requires not only a rich set of data but also extensive experience and knowledge to build the personas that inform a robust strategy.

Don’t know where to start? Well, at SlashData we have a wealth of experience in understanding developer behaviour through our twice-yearly global survey, as well as through numerous custom research projects with our clients and partners. We also have a deep and detailed body of research on developers through our Developer Program Benchmarking research. Get in touch to find out more.

You can also go through a case study that shows how Okta and Mozilla used the Developer Program Benchmarking to bring their developer program among the Top 3 in terms of developer satisfaction.

Google has the leading developer program, but Amazon is catching up

Developers. Decision-makers. Kingmakers?
For several years now, at SlashData we have been helping our clients – some of the biggest names in tech – to understand how their developer programs measure against the competition. Twice a year, we run an extensive and wide-ranging global survey to understand who developers are, what tools and resources they use, and where they are going. Developers share with us their experiences with vendors’ resources – which ones they use, how often they use them, and how happy they are with the experience. We also dig a little deeper into what developers value in vendor support, resources, and communities.

Our research shows that developers are becoming increasingly involved in all stages of the decision-making process. Not only are they writing specifications for vendors and tooling choices, but they are also influencing decision-makers and budget holders. If software is eating the world, then developers are writing the menu. 

To attract developers, many tech companies are actively investing in Developer Relations (DevRel) teams and developer marketing activities. They are creating an abundance of resources, training programs, technical support, events, and community activities. It’s not always clear which activities should be priorities and how resources should be allocated to achieve long-term strategic goals. We are here to help.

Our Developer Program Benchmarking research tracks 20+ of the leading developer programs, and captures developer sentiment across more than twenty developer program attributes, ranging from documentation and sample code to mentoring programs and access to experts. In so doing, it helps DevRel and developer marketing practitioners understand how their developer program compares against the rest.

Here, we give you a snapshot of the state of play for these developer programs. We use three KPIs to create a 360° overview of how each developer program performs:

  1. Adoption – How many developers use a vendor’s resources
  2. Engagement – How frequently developers engage with the resources
  3. Satisfaction – How developers rate their experience using the resources

bubble chart showing how developer perceive the leading developer programs

We can see that the Market Leaders; Google, Microsoft, and Amazon highly engage and satisfy developers. Their market share – or adoption rate, shown by the size of the bubble – reinforces their market-leading position. In fact, when we take a longer-term view of this data, it becomes clear that Google and Microsoft have long been the market leaders, staying at or near the top of the table for all three KPIs. 

Recently however, Amazon has made considerable progress. In fact, Amazon’s developer program has been growing faster than the global developer population, which is currently 24.3M (you can explore more in our developer population calculator), while Google and Microsoft’s share has dropped slightly. When you take into account the large increase in Amazon’s satisfaction score and their aggressive growth strategy, the top table positions don’t seem so assured.

Our data also uncovers the Satisfying Specialists – these developer programs are often small and focused. Unity, Red Hat and DigitalOcean sit firmly in this space. Developers don’t need to engage frequently with these vendors’ resources, but when they do, they have an excellent experience. For these vendors, low engagement is not a cause for concern, though it does come with its own challenges – when developers have fewer touchpoints there are fewer opportunities to speak to them or to influence their behaviour. For these (and other) vendors with low engagement, messaging becomes vital. 

The Under-realised Value segment contains developer programs that, although having high engagement amongst developers, are being held back by their low satisfaction ratings. These programs are often (though not always) small, and the vendors here have a clear imperative to improve their developers’ experience. Thankfully, with developers engaging frequently with the resources there are ample opportunities to effect positive change.

But what, exactly, to change? 

This brings us to the true power of our Developer Program Benchmarking research. Not only do we understand how developers engage with vendors’ resources, but we also know which resources are important to developers, and how satisfied they are with the resources that companies provide. 

Though developers’ preferences change and evolve, some things stay constant. Of the twenty-plus resources that we ask about, documentation & sample code, tutorials & how-to videos, and development tools, integrations & libraries have consistently been rated as the most important resources that companies should offer. This shows that developers are focused not only on getting things done, using documentation and development tools to speed up the development process, but they also highly value having the opportunity to learn. We can see this repeated further down the list – training courses & hands-on labs provide the learning opportunities, whilst technical support allows them to lean on experts when they need to.

Table showing the 5 resources: documentation, tutorials, development tools, training courses and technical support

In this way, we can tell which resources developers value, and how their experience matches their expectations. This information, when combined with our wealth of survey data on demographics, firmographics, technology choices, motivations, skills, and much more, becomes incredibly powerful for informing strategic planning. We help some of the leading tech companies in the world to understand precisely which resources need improvement, and which developers will benefit most from such improvements. Have you ever wanted to know how to tailor your tutorials to the right level of complexity? Have you ever tried to decide how to localise your content? What about marketing to enterprise developers, what do they care about? 

We also go a level deeper. For many developer programs, we specifically ask developers how they use resources relating to different products or disciplines. For example, we help developer programs to understand whether or not they are vulnerable in the cloud compute market, or what are the specific preferences of developers using IoT resources. Once again, coupled with the rest of our rich and diverse data, this information allows you to create a finely tuned strategy that allocates resources efficiently and effectively.

With developers having such power in the decision-making process, this is a win-win for everyone involved. By understanding what developers value, you can tailor your offering to suit their needs, increasing retention, growing your audience, and ultimately, adding to your bottom line. SlashData are the analysts of the developer nation, and we can help you understand developers.

You can download a preview of the latest Developer Programs Benchmarking here.

Hot off the Press: Developers’ needs due to COVID-19, Open Source, Languageds, DevOps and more

What do developers value in open source?
How have their needs changed due to COVID-19?

The 19th Developer Economics global survey wave ran from June to August 2020 and reached more than 17,000 developers in 159 countries. Hot off the press “State of the Developer Nation” report presents developer trends for Q3 2020 and beyond.

The report is free  to access and focuses on six major topics, providing answers to questions like these:

  1. Developers’ extra needs due to COVID-19
  2. Programming language communities – an update
  3. Why do developers adopt or reject cloud technologies?
  4. Who is into DevOps?
  5. What do developers value in open source?
  6. Emerging technologies

Some highlights to spark your curiosity:

state of developer nation highlights

 

Developers’ extra needs due to COVID-19

  • Four in ten developers report that they need more flexibility in working hours/workload as a consequence of COVID-19.
  • Developers responsible for tooling specifications and for approving budgets and expenses are in the greatest need of increased security, performance, and cloud space.

What do developers value in open source?

  • Developers appreciate collaborating and interacting with the open-source community more than contributing to open-source projects.
  • South Asian developers highly value contributing to open-source projects, positioning this region to drive the next wave of open-source development.
  • Developers who are building apps and extensions for third party ecosystems, on average, value contributing and forking more than developers in other sectors.

Who is into DevOps? 

  • DevOps has reached mainstream adoption.
  • The vast majority of professional developers (more than 80%) are involved in DevOps in one way or another.
  • Continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD) are two of the most common DevOps practices, but only one in four developers use both to fully automate their workflow.

Download the full report here.

The report is free to download for all community members including developers and industry enthusiasts.

How do developers perceive themselves? Are they introverts or extroverts?

The data from our latest Developer Economics survey give all the answers in the recently published State of the Developer Nation Q2 2019 report, which – as always-  is now available for free download

What’s new in the dev world? 

The report highlights the latest insights from the developer ecosystem, based on responses from 19,000+ software developers of all profiles: professionals, hobbyists and students, working across all major areas: mobile, web, desktop, cloud, IoT, AR/VR, games, machine learning & data science. It focuses on 6 themes:

  1. (NEW) Developer psychographics: how do developers perceive themselves? 37% see themselves as introverts and only 4% describe themselves as being able to make a killer cocktail.
  2. Programming language communities: Is JavaScript getting comfortable on its throne? Updated estimates of the number of active software developers using each of the major programming languages
  3. Emerging Technologies: What turns interest into adoption?
  4. Game Streaming: Developing for live-streaming. Are we there yet?
  5. Third-party platforms and ecosystems: App developers are unlikely to work solely on one third party platform. 
  6. Mobile cross-platforms frameworks: Mobile development has matured enough to embrace cross-platform frameworks, allowing building apps that can run on multiple platforms.

The full report is available for free download at sdata.me/fr_SoN17 

Software developers who want to have their voice heard in the next State of Developer Nation report, can join our next survey that starts on Nov. 22nd, 2019. All survey respondents enter a draw to win amazing prizes and Developer Economics donates $0.10 for every complete response to the Rasberry Pi Foundation. 

graph showing developer psychographics

Gender Wars

The technology industry often takes credit for the changing world of work. One example is the model of remote employees working as digital nomads in their favourite coffee shop, connected via Slack and collaborating via the cloud to create products and services for consumption over the internet or on smartphones and tablets. But what about work within the technology industry itself? We take a look at the profile of women in technology and compare it with the profile of their male counterparts.

If we exclude those who preferred not to share their gender with us, and those who skipped this optional question, female developers responding to our survey were outnumbered by males by a ratio of 1 to 10 (9% women and 91% men). This suggests a global population of 1.7 million women developers and 17 million men. The technology industry is dominated by men and the imbalance in numbers is such that we cannot make numerical comparisons between men and women. Instead, in the rest of this chapter, we will look at relative differences in terms of experience, age and roles adopted, and the most common company sectors and development areas for men and women.

What are their ages?

Looking at the comparative ages of male and female developers, we find a higher percentage of women are under the age of 35. The 25-34 age group accounts for the largest number of developers of both genders (36% of women, 33% of men), yet male developers are more likely to be older: we found 37% of male developers are over 35 years, compared to 29% of women developers.

There are (at least) two different ways of interpreting this observation. One is to say that women are being increasingly drawn to software development; the comparatively young profile of women compared to men illustrates recent gains made in attracting girls and young women into technology. Analysis of college data for entrants to computer science courses, in North America at least, suggests that this is indeed a plausible explanation, as women are increasingly studying courses in the subjects that lead to a career in technology.

An alternative, or additional, explanation is that women may have always been involved, but tend to leave software development as they get older, either by choice or necessity.

And here’s a preview of the roles they undertake:

Gender Wars 1

 

What is their educational background?

When we looked into the education levels of the genders, we noted that women developers are equally likely to have been educated to degree level in computing/software engineering when compared to men. Likewise for other classroom training that doesn’t lead to specific degrees, and for attendance at developer bootcamps.

Women are slightly more likely than men to have learned their craft using online course materials and slightly less likely to have learned on-the-job. Women are significantly less likely to be self-taught (57% of women compared to 75% of men) but it is still the most popular way of learning about development for both genders. The relatively older profile of men probably explains why more have become self-taught: they have engaged in continuous education throughout their longer career because of the rapidly changing nature of the industry. As women developers mature, we would expect the level of “self-taught” women to rise as they also teach themselves new skills to advance their career.

 

For more details on the Gender Wars, you can download our State of the Developer Nation 16th Edition report.

It’s free and full of insights.

From pauper-to-prince: developers are now the buying centre of purchasing tools.

Today, Peter Levine is an influential venture capitalist; his opinions are closely listened to and he controls large pots of money. But his career didn’t start out this way. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Levine worked as a software engineer. He describes the extent of his influence on tool purchasing decisions at the time as follows: “When I was a developer, I had no budget and I couldn’t buy a pencil, when pencils were popular. I couldn’t buy anything. Whatever central IT had ordered, that’s what showed up on my desk.” Oh, how the times have changed. Developers have become powerful influencers in their own right, and for the tool vendors of this era, they are a crucial target.
Peter Levine himself describes the transition of developers from pretty powerless line employees to kingmakers as follows, based on his experience with tech startups.

One of the most notable transformations over the past 5 years has been the pauper-to-prince of the developer as a buying center within a company. […] As software infiltrates every part of our economy, [developers are now] the lead innovators and they’re the lead buyers in companies. What we see are many of our startup companies now deliberately selling to developers as the first wedge point into an organisation. [Developers] all very much have opinions and buying potential.

— Peter Levine on the a16z podcast (edited for clarity)

As our surveys are designed to reflect the voice of the modern software developer, we thought we’d get some data on how influential they actually are. For this chapter, we only consider professional developers in organisations that buy tools or components (11% of these developers don’t). We also exclude lone wolves: developers who work on their own and where a purchase decision is purely personal.

To some extent, the traditional purchasing structure that Levine referred to from his days as a developer is still alive: the higher up in the organisation, the higher the decision power on tool purchasing.  We consider 4 organisational roles of developers: front-line coders, team leads, product managers, and technology CxO’s. Front-line coders represent 47% of respondents in our survey, the others 36%. An additional 8% combine multiple roles. For the purpose of this analysis, they behave like a mix of the latter three roles.

The control of company leaders over budgets and decisions is of course completely expected. Even in small organisations, decision power would rest with more senior staff, especially for making final decisions on team-wide tools and for budgeting.

This said, the influence of developers on purchasing decisions is abundantly clear.

03_high_res

Almost all developers with a leadership function no matter how small – between 87% and 96% of them – are somehow involved in purchase decisions. Even among front-line developers, the bottom rung in the developer organisation, this is still 65%. Between half and two thirds of developers are in a position to make recommendations or influence decisions. In particular, team leaders (i.e. senior developers) are big influencers (68%).

More than a third of developers (incl 38% of front-line developers) acquire tools for their personal use. First, this means they have at least some decision power and at least a small budget to spend. In aggregate, this by itself is an important market. Second, this increases their influence in their organisations and allows them to act as a ‘wedge point’, as Levine calls it. They can introduce tools in an organisation for personal use or at small scale, and then have a proof point to demonstrate the tool’s value to others, based on actual experience and results. As such, they can evangelise tools in larger organisations. Targeting individual developers therefore becomes a viable strategy for enterprise sales.

Up to a third of mid-level developer leaders (team leaders and product managers) hold the pen when writing specs for tools (32% and 31%, respectively), or even get the final word on which tool to adopt (30% and 27%). Again this indicates that catering to the needs of individual developers is becoming crucial. Even when in a majority of cases developers still need management to sign off on purchases, the days are over when an inadequate tool could be pushed from the top down because it appeared interesting to CFO’s or top brass.

Only for budget and expense approvals, the power still lies elsewhere in the organisation. Even on the CTO/CIO level, only 34% and 38% have budget and expense control, respectively. This makes sense – budgets are never unlimited, and financial decisions rarely belong to function leaders. While this may affect pricing and positioning of developer tools, it will have limited impact on which tools (out of a set of competitors) get the most traction. The power for that decision is more and more found at lower organisational levels.

In conclusion, developer experience matters – a lot! From our Developer Program Benchmarking research, we know that developer satisfaction is highly correlated with adoption. The world of developer tooling has indeed fundamentally shifted since the days of Peter Levine’s career start as a developer. It is no longer the purchasing department you need to woo, but the developer who will use your tools on the floor, and their direct team manager.

As a research company entirely focused on developers, we will follow this evolution very closely. We’ll also gradually be introducing the level of developer influence as a filter in our Dashboard service.

This article is part of the State of the Developer Nation Q3,2017 report. Download the full report!

 

5 ways developers can extend your business model

Developer programs and third party software developers used to be important only for companies making computer operating systems like Microsoft, IBM or Apple.

Blog004_Final_web

Many people still remember how Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, rallied his troops chanting the word “developers” 16 times.

Ballmer was right – Microsoft won the battle for dominance of personal computing by winning developers. 20 years later, however, Microsoft lost the battle for dominance of mobile to Google and Apple; by losing the support of developers.

Today access to developers has become a competitive advantage in almost every industry, from games and media to banking and agriculture. Forward-looking companies invest millions of dollars, and their best minds, to create APIs and developer programs. No matter how a company runs its business, developers can extend the company’s business model in five major ways. How? Let me explain.

1

A successful developer program can boost all 3 aspects of a company’s business model: value creation, value delivery and value capture.

1. Developers as customers

The most obvious way of thinking about how 3rd party developers can make you money is to see developers as paying customers, i.e. capture value by selling to developers. For example, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine or Salesforce App Cloud.

There are also many companies for which selling services and tools to developers is the only business. For example Twilio, a startup company that has created an API on top of standard telecom services, has built a $100million-a-year recurring business (2014 figures) by providing tools for developers to integrate SMS and telephony into their apps.

2. Developers as product extenders

Developers can also boost your business by adding new features you never designed or even thought of – thus making your product more valuable to your paying customers.

The most obvious example is the Apple iPhone. Apple’s developer program led to the creation of over one million apps for the Apple App Store. These apps are 1+ million features that make the iPhone more valuable for the users. Often the value is added through new functionality provided by the app, but sometimes it’s just about constant supply of cool new things. Essentially the iPhone is not a phone, but a computing platform allowing 3rd party developers to extend it beyond anyone’s imagination.

There is an ever-growing list of companies which work with developers to extend their products making them more useful: From SmartThings (recently acquired by Samsung) in smart home, to Automatic and Ford in connected cars, and DJI in drones.

[tweetable]Developers can extend products through informal partnerships[/tweetable]; consider how someone using IFTTT can get a Nest thermostat to talk to a Philips light bulb or Amazon’s Echo smart home hub. All without the need for closed-room partnerships, consortia meeting in exotic locations, or even NDAs.

3. Developers as data harvesters

Google and Facebook, both data-driven advertising companies, turn to developers to make their their ads more effective for advertisers. Android, Google’s mobile operating system, helps the company to harvest data about mobile users. Developers make Android more valuable to users through 1.6 million apps available on the platform. More Android users means more data for Google making Google ads on the desktop more effective, and therefore more valuable for advertisers.

Facebook works with developers to integrate their identity services into as many apps as possible. The reason is simple: the more apps use Facebook’s login system to identify the user, the more Facebook will know about their users. Similar to Google; developers help Facebook to harvest user data to make their ads more effective and make more money.

4. Developers as distributors

[tweetable]Developers can help deliver your product to new markets and new users by being a distribution channel[/tweetable] for your business.

For example, Uber works with developers to integrate the company’s on-demand transportation services into new apps and services. The company works with large partners (United Airlines, Hyatt), successful Internet companies (OpenTable, TripAdvisor) as well as young startups (Momento, Tempo) to make Uber’s “take me from A to B” services accessible in wide array of use cases.

Developers also help Uber to sign up new users. The company’s affiliate program rewards developers for each valid first trip in the U.S. by a new user whose trip request originated through their app.

5. Developers as resellers

[tweetable]Developers can also help resell your product by being a sales channel[/tweetable] for your business.

Amazon works with developers to boost sales of physical and digital products. Amazon Mobile Associates program allows developers to earn up to 6% as revenue share on purchases made through their apps and games. Amazon Replenishment Service enables connected devices to order physical goods from Amazon when supplies are running low.

Seeing developers as a sales channel is not limited to the realm of Internet companies. Wallgreens, the largest drug retailing chain in the United States, also works with developers to boost sales of its digital print services. The Walgreens Photo Prints API allows users of mobile apps to print photos to any of the 8,000+ Walgreens locations in the US. The mobile app developers earn a revenue-share commission with every photo order that’s placed through their app.

Building a developer program and an ecosystem quickly becomes the norm and the baseline for competition in almost any industry. In fact, checking whether a company has a developer portal (typically at developer.company.com) is a leading indicator of how well the company is prepared for the future.

— Michael

Just out: Developer Megatrends H1 2015

Software developers are a driving force in every industry and a source of competitive advantage. They are the kingmakers of modern business. In our 50+ page Developer Megatrends H1 2015 report (download it here or see the SlideShare presentation), we highlight 4 key developer trends for 2015.

Every day the evidence is mounting: software developers are a driving force in every industry and a source of competitive advantage. They are the kingmakers of modern business.

For mobile devices, there is no doubt. 1.5 million apps on iOS and Android each have propelled us into a new era of mobile computing and given rise to whole industries that weren’t even possible before. Look no further than the havoc that Uber is wreaking in the transportation industry. Developers are not finished with mobile, either. [tweetable]Every year, 800,000 new mobile developers join the pack[/tweetable]. That’s about the population of South Dakota, Macau or Cyprus, every year.

Developers are invading more and more industries and verticals. Our Q1 2015 Developer Economics survey showed that 53% of mobile developers are already involved in the Internet of Things, with many more to come. [tweetable]Our latest estimates put the amount of IoT developers over 4 million individuals[/tweetable].

Developers are conquering the wrist, with 3,500+ Apple Watch apps and 2,300+ Android Wear apps. They’re conquering the car. Android Auto and Apple Carplay will be available on dozens of car models this year. 250+ OBD apps provide aftermarket solutions for car data, with growing support from big players in telecom and insurance. Developers are conquering the home, taking advantage of new technologies and platforms like Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, Google Weave, Eclipse Smart Home or dozens of device APIs. Developers are even conquering the sky. Major drone players like DJI (from Phantom fame), 3D Robotics (dronekit.io) or Airware are providing SDKs for drone apps, helping developers to put drones to use in industry, agriculture, construction or mining. Cities, healthcare, clothing, factories, … – They’ll all fall to the wave of innovation made by developers.

When we say developers, we don’t just mean hobbyists tinkerers. Developers matter a great deal to businesses. From telecom to fashion, from logistics to lighting, today’s competitive battles are won and lost by attracting developers. To cite just one example, Salesforce took the #1 spot in CRM systems from Oracle, in large part due to its 1.4M strong developer ecosystem. Every modern company must master developer ecosystem skills if it is to thrive in the information age.

4 key developer trends in 2015

In our 50+ page Developer Megatrends H1 2015 report, we highlight 4 key developer trends for 2015.

Developers escape from the app store. Revenue from app store sales or in-app advertising grew by 70% in one year, according to IDC and App Annie. Great news! Or is it? The truth is that [tweetable]the app store alone cannot sustain the mobile developer population[/tweetable]. 60%+ of developers are under the app poverty line and only 1 in 9 is in the safe zone. Most money in the app economy is not made from the app store, but from app-driven e-commerce. Selling offline goods and services via apps represents 71% of the app economy in 2015 – and it’s earned by only 9% of developers! Whether using apps as a channel (like Amazon), building a mobile-first business (like Uber) or using apps as a platform (like WeChat), e-commerce is winning app revenue model and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Developers escape from consumer markets. There is another way to dodge the poverty trap: target enterprises. Only 20% of mobile developers target enterprises, but 46% of them makes over $10K per month, versus 19% for consumer-oriented developers. Making the jump to enterprise might be easier than it seems. There is substantial overlap in what consumer and enterprise app developers are working on. [tweetable]Many apps can be simply repositioned or repurposed to attract an enterprise audience rather than consumers[/tweetable]. We see a similar pattern among Internet of Things developers. Winning app and IoT developers will repurpose consumer technology and business models to solve the most important enterprise problems, and dodge the poverty trap by doing so.

Apps escape from screens. The app paradigm of bite-sized software is replicated outside of smartphones: it can be found on the watch, desktop, car, TV, browser, and in the home. The nature of apps is changing too. From yesterday’s traditional app like Angry Birds (where the value is delivered by the app itself), we’ve moved to the companion app. In Honeywell’s thermostat-controlling Lyric app, the value is in the device, and the app is just the remote control. [tweetable]The value in tomorrow’s apps will come from making sense of data[/tweetable]. Apps like Apple Health process triggers and signals across devices, sensors and APIs. As a consequence, data developers and data platforms will soon be king.

Platforms escape from mobile. What’s the future of mobile platforms, given the stalemate in platform wars and the evolution to data-centric apps that moves the focus away from mobile OS? Mobile ecosystems like Android and iOS move to the Internet of Things in force, fully leveraging their developer and user bases to gain traction fast across all major IoT verticals. Others like e-commerce players are following in their footsteps, attracting devs with distribution capability and engaged users. Here’s the billion dollar question then: [tweetable]will the network effects from mobile carry over to IoT[/tweetable]? Will the mobile platform duopoly be sustained in IoT? In the future, IoT device selection by consumers and enterprises will be determined by “will it work with my existing services and devices”. We predicted this as early as 2010. In the 2012 edition of the Megatrends report, we talked about the evolving meaning of convergence. From converged networks, to converged devices, to experience roaming. That prediction is now playing out in full.

Download the full Developer Megatrends H1 2015 here.

Consumers outweigh the CIO in the Internet of Things

We continue with insights from our most recent publication, IoT Developer Megatrends – a short publication on the most important trends for the Internet of Things. In this post, we look at the potential of consumer and enterprise IoT markets. Enterprise IoT (industrial, large-scale applications) are currently the biggest market in terms of revenues, but will that remain so forever? Consumer applications like Wearables and Smart Home are hyped in tech media, but will that translate into a real business opportunity? History and data can provide some answers to these questions.

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Flashback to 2007. “Five hundred dollars fully subsidized with a plan!” Steve Ballmer laughed as the journalist asked for his reaction to the iPhone launch. “That is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard. … Right now we’re selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year; Apple is selling zero phones a year. In six months, they’ll have the most expensive phone by far ever in the marketplace. … Let’s see how the competition goes.”

Who would buy an overpriced phone that doesn’t appeal to business customers, indeed! From a latecomer to the market with no experience in mobile telephony, nonetheless. Except for one small detail.

The demand for expensive iPhones (and later for Android) did not come from business users who wanted faster-better-cheaper. It came from consumers craving the millions of apps available on these devices. Not only was Windows Mobile overtaken by iPhone and Android, but these new products ultimately undermined the enterprise market that Microsoft and Blackberry owned. In 2014, iOS and Android accounted for 97% of new mobile device activations in enterprises, while the latter two were obliviated.

The new normal: consumers first

As it happens, the pattern we saw in smartphones is not the exception, but the rule for most recent computing technologies – Software-as-a-Service, social media, and even PCs. Likewise, IoT will find large-scale adoption in consumer markets first. After that, consumer technology will proceed to displace its supposedly superior enterprise equivalent. This might surprise you, as enterprise solutions comprise the bulk of the IoT market today.

Isn’t all the money in large enterprise projects then? [tweetable]Unlike in days past, the technology underlying the IoT is relatively cheap and ubiquitous[/tweetable]. It doesn’t require large government or enterprise budgets to fund so it is accessible to experiment and iterate with. Just like with mobile apps, innovators can take existing technology into countless needs and niches, most of them unimaginable today. (As opposed to inventing new technology to realize an existing vision.) The enterprise market caters to straight-forward, well-understood business needs and grows at a moderate pace. Meanwhile, for consumers without long procurement cycles, the plethora of use cases unlocks new demand – things we didn’t realize we needed – which grows the market at incredible speed. Finally, enterprise technology is overtaken: if I can have this fantastic, cheap, powerful consumer technology at home, why am I stuck with old, clunky tools at work?

It should come as no surprise then, that [tweetable]the most popular verticals in which IoT developers are active are the Smart Home and Wearables[/tweetable]: distinctly consumer-oriented sectors. The other verticals have a B2B orientation, requiring developers to sell their work to enterprises or partner with big companies to get their products to consumer markets. As a result, they are much less attractive to developers, and innovation will be slower there. The Connected Car market offers us an interesting view in what happens when a sector “consumerizes”. Up until now, developing car apps required partnering with car makers. Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto enable – for the first time – a direct-to-consumer model for developers. Immediately we see an uptick in developer interest.

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Market reset

IoT is a greenfield market. When new use cases lead to new demand, this new demand is fair game for everyone. The rules of the current market will not apply. New players can appear out of nowhere and overtake incumbents (as Apple and Google did in mobile). New business models can emerge, some of which disruptive to incumbents. Some newcomers might give for free (or at zero profit) what incumbents sell, in a model that boosts demand for their core product. History shows that it will be nigh impossible for incumbents to react effectively.

[tweetable]We predict that by 2020, new players with new business models will dominate IoT[/tweetable]. Most incumbents will be bankrupt, acquired or uncompetitive.

The 3 key Apple Watch features that nobody talks about. Yet.

[If Apple wants to create a new, large product category out of smart watches, they need to create mass-market demand for their new product. What are the 3 most important features that will define the future of the Apple Watch? The ones that enable developers to innovate on top of these devices and create demand for smart watches.]

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“We believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category. … It is the next chapter in Apple’s story.” With these words, Tim Cook made it very clear that the Apple Watch is more than just an excellent product. As with the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad before it, the Apple Watch aims to shape the future of wearables and create a whole new market reality.

As it stands, the Apple Watch v1 is a nicely designed timepiece, an engineering wonder, but competition will be fierce. Since fashion is about self-expression, by definition, there will be no single winner.

If Apple wants to create something bigger than fashion accessories, the Watch needs to be a functional tool. If it’s a tool, [tweetable]Apple must answer a fundamental question: what is a smart watch for?[/tweetable]

Will notifications become the killer app for smart watches? Unlikely. Not only is it unclear that we really want more interruptions, but it’s a bit of a dead-end for innovation. There can only be so many improvements in notifications, and only so many companies making those improvements.

If Apple wants to create a new, large product category out of smart watches, they need to become something much more that a timepiece with notifications and sensors. Something that allows people to do things that were not possible before. How Apple can do this? By following the same path that worked so well for iPhone and iPad: Tap into the limitless innovation power of co-creators to discover new use cases and possibilities we cannot imagine today.

The most important features of the Apple Watch going forward are the ones that enable developers to innovate on top of these devices and create demand for Apple’s smart watches. What are these features?

WatchKit

WatchKit

The straightforward way to expand the functionality of the watch is the WatchKit SDK, which allows developers to create “watch apps”. Other smart watch players like Android Wear, Pebble and Razer have made similar capabilities for developers. Developers are already showing strong interest in smartwatches. For example, the developer program of Pebble boasts 20,000+ developers and thousands of apps,.

HealthKit

The Apple Watch has a strong emphasis on embedded sensors for fitness and wellness. On the launch event, the company dedicated an entire section on it. Tim Cook: “This is a very important area for me and a very important area for Apple.”

But a few sensors and apps do not make a platform. The real potential lies in the HealthKit SDK that Apple launched at its WWDC event earlier this year. While its not technically a feature of the watch itself, it is this SDK that can take the device’s functionality and expand it in a whole new way to monitor activity and other wellness data . Could it be that the category that Apple wants to redefine is not the watch, but wellness and healthcare (in the broadest sense of the word)?

Certainly several other companies seem to go after that opportunity. Among them Google (Google Fit), Validic, Samsung (SAMI), Human API and most recently Jawbone (Jawbone UP API).

Identity

Like the Nymi wristband, the Apple Watch has all the technology in it to identify you personally. Apple has already demonstrated how digital identity combined with the Apple Watch can be used to make payments or even open hotel doors. (The clever integration with the new Apple Pay can drive adoption for both.) However, the possibilities are much broader. Biometric identification can be the end of not only passwords, but other kinds of ID as well. Another product category for Apple to redefine and absorb into its iOS universe?

Digital identity is a key control point for many digital leaders, including the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Salesforce. They are all actively working to hold your identity information and build your online persona on their platform. For Apple, the importance of identity is also evident in their deepening integration between devices and in their introduction of fingerprint sensors in all new phones.

Users first

What is a smart watch useful for? Beyond fashion and self-expression, a new kind of health monitoring and identity are prime candidates for the title of killer use case. Apple is going at it with their proven recipe for launching digital ecosystems: users-first. Apple starts by releasing a well-designed device for hardcore fans with a lot of value built in by default. Once there is a critical mass of users, Apple connects them with developers, who create real mass-market demand for the product.

It will take the ingenuity of a community of developers to explore all the possibilities and create a category killer, and Apple knows it very well.