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.

Episode 2 | Under the Hood of Developer Marketing | Developer Events with Katherine Miller

Listen to the audio episode.

[Intro] Hello and welcome to “Under the Hood of Developer Marketing”, a podcast from SlashData. This is a podcast to come to for best practices and insights from the developer marketing world. In each episode we meet a different guest each with a background in technology. We’ll share their experiences, success stories and lessons learned. We are /Data and our mission is to help the world understand developers. Stay tuned for more episodes by signing up at

[Jo] Hello and welcome to “Under the Hood of Developer Marketing”, a podcast from SlashData. I’m Jo Stichbury, one of the senior analysts in the team and today I’m joined by Katherine Miller. Katherine and I worked on a book together recently, Developer marketing: The Essential Guide. We published the book in September last year and it aims to be the de facto text on the up and coming field of marketing to software and hardware developers. I have a fair amount of experience in this field as I’ve worked as a developer and in marketing for Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, Symbian, and in various publishing fields. More recently, I’ve moved into technical writing, working on documentation for developers and those that want to attract them. But Kattie, tell me about yourself. What’s your bio and background?

[Katherine]    Thank you so much Jo for having me on the podcast. I am currently the lead of the events team within the Cloud developer relations organisation at Google. I’m going on about 13 and a half years now at Google and have worn many hats, across our ads and agency and developer marketing and developer relations businesses. Today I am here on behalf of myself and I’ll be speaking about my experiences that I’ve gained through my years at Google as well as in my other experiences. But prior to Google, I actually had a career in higher education. I ran the admissions office at a dental school in Boston. What I really like to think is the common thread that runs through all of the work that I’ve done, whether it be developer relations and marketing, ads, customer service or convincing people to go to dental school; It’s all about building programs and communication experiences that help people get the information that they need to make decisions and be successful. Whether that’s where they want to become dentists or what technology they want to use to build their applications.

[Jo] Okay. Wow. That is quite a journey though, isn’t it? Did you think that you’d end up in this area? How do you think your younger self would see your current role?

[Katherine] I reflect on that a lot particularly, and I’m going to age myself now. I’m coming up on my 20th reunion for university and I reflect back on what I said I wanted to do when I graduated and, amusingly, I would have jokingly said I wanted to be the education secretary for President Hillary Clinton and run the Boston marathon. So, I guess I had some foresight back in the late nineties. Fortunately I have completed the Boston Marathon, so that’s that. But my initial career did take me down the path of education and that’s actually what brought me out to California in the first place. Working in the tech sphere in any capacity would have been so far removed from what I was doing in the late nineties. In fact, not only did much of this technology not even exist for us to comprehend, but also when I even look at the journey that I’ve had over the last 13 and a half years, the vast majority of the technology that we’re talking about and that we’re marketing didn’t even exist at the time that I started at Google 13 and a half years ago.

[Jo] So that is quite the journey. So, within Google, what would you say has been your biggest challenge in your roles there?

[Katherine] That’s an interesting question and I don’t even know if I would say that this is something specific to Google or is just something specific to tech, which is, I think twofold. I think the first is how as a brand and a product suite, we can really think about not just differentiating offerings, but really thinking about how to do so in a way that really is thoughtful and sensitive to the user. So, really putting the user at the center in the heart of everything, and helping them really understand the benefits of why to pay attention to what we’re saying in the first place. So, really that user centric journey. And then, I think the second is – again, more of an observation across the broader tech sphere and not specific to my work at Google – how we really think about bringing diversity and inclusive experiences into the products that we build, the events that we create, the marketing experiences that we put forward out into the world. I think that those are two really interesting challenges when I just reflect on the 15 years I’ve spent in Silicon Valley as a whole.

[Jo] That’s really interesting. I’ve actually just been writing about women in tech. When we’re talking about diversity, it’s one that I think a lot of people would immediately think of. Though obviously not the only one. I was quite surprised to see that there was about one in 10 developers at the moment women. I thought we go beyond that now. And that it was more parity, but it seems not. That’s a global figure. I’m sure things are a bit different in your part of the world. Would you just say so or, or is 1 in 10 still kind of a common statistic?

[Katherine] Observing the events that my team has run and the events that I’ve been able to attend and participate in, I think it varies quite considerably across the platform and across the geographic location. A lot of what we see, and this is again observational, and observe in tech is really related to what we see and observe in terms of diversity in the workforce as a whole within those particular regions and cultures.

[Jo] Yes. I think that must be very true. Let’s go back to the challenges that you’ve experienced. Something that we were very strong about when we wrote the book was that we didn’t just want the glitz, we wanted the mistakes, we wanted the secrets of how you overcome the obstacles. What would you say is your biggest mistake? And what did you learn from it?

[Katherine] That’s such a good question. I have 13 and a half years to dig into. And even beyond that, if I think about early stage career. I think the biggest mistake is… And this applies across the board and I can’t think of necessarily one specific instance. I’m two and a half weeks out from a major event, so I’m probably being very self critical of all of the things I haven’t done in preparation for that event. I would say it’s that, I haven’t taken the extra five to 10 minutes to ask the questions and to listen and to really understand the audience and the stakeholders when I wanted to do that. In that true tech mindset, run fast, fail fast, act and ask for forgiveness. And every one of those instances, taking that extra bit of time to pause and say, “what are we really trying to accomplish here? Who are the people that we’re trying to reach? What are the goals of this? Is this the best strategy? What are the trade offs of what we do?” And I think in those moments we’re in an effort to just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, and to meet deadlines, sometimes there are moments in there where maybe we should have paused. Maybe it would have been a deadline slip, but in the end it would have been the right thing for the internal stakeholders and for the event attendees.

[Jo] Yeah. I see exactly what you mean. I think as a technical writer I’m guilty of much the same in that. Sometimes in my rush to get down what I want to write, I stop thinking about what the problem is that I’m trying to solve for the reader or even who the reader should or would be. And certainly in, you know, in my past career as a tech writer, we Symbian, perhaps I was always solving the wrong problems. We were writing to the converted rather than looking at the external developers and trying to pull more people in. Because of course Apple came along and Google with your Android devices and the Symbian platform just wasn’t really ready for third party developers in the same way. And I was the one that was writing the content for a lot of developers at the time. So absolutely, the problem that other people are trying to solve has got to be right at the top of the list, isn’t it? It’s not always the problem you’re trying to solve, unfortunately.

[Katherine] I love the way that you reflected on that because it really made me reflect on the experience of collaborating on the book and on the chapter where it was a lot of me getting down my ideas and experiences and you all were really pushing me to think about the readers and all of those different angles. And so, in many ways that’s what made the experience of working on the chapter so positive.

[Jo] Oh Great. I’m glad you enjoyed working on it because your chapter was so much fun to review because I learned so much about, well why don’t you tell us, what did you choose to talk about in your chapter?

[Katherine] So my chapter was about producing events for developers. In my time at Google thus far – and that is really where I have built up the muscle around developer events – even though again, the perspective is my own. I have worked on everything, from small meetups up to large tent pole marquee events. And so, it was an incredible opportunity to share the wisdom, the strengths, and the failings of the work that I’ve done to hopefully open people’s eyes and minds to what developer events truly can be. Oftentimes, people think about events as very difficult to measure. Very difficult to measure. They can be expensive. What’s the ROI out of them? And I really truly believe they’re such an incredible vehicle for delivering other programs, other initiatives, other campaigns, and in a really human way. I’ve been really lucky that over the last 13 and a half years, events keep coming to the top of what I’m doing within my particular roles. And it’s just a real passion. It’s something that I really believe in, in terms of it being an effective mechanism of developer marketing.

[Jo] Absolutely. So, this week I think is GDC in San Francisco. I’ve got very fond memories of that event. It’s one of my favorites and also WWDC at the Moscone Center. Those are two really iconic events I think, in the developer calendar. But what do you think makes them so attractive?

[Katherine] Such an excellent question. When I reflect on events like that, when I reflect on events like Google IO, even some of the more emerging ones that you have, Facebook has F8, Amazon and Microsoft have their events, the ones that have been done really effectively are the ones that really understand the different audiences and craft experiences and content that match the needs of those audiences. So that, you know, as an attendee, whether you’re there as press, whether you’re there as an analyst, whether you’re there as a partner, whether you’re there as a practitioner, there’s a place for you at the event and you know how to find it. And you feel, when you walk away from the event, from an ROI perspective that you have gotten out of the event that what you’re looking for. And I think for those ones that are done really well, people are going looking for deep technical content. They are looking to connect with one another. They’re looking to connect with the experts. They’re looking for that balance of wow in amazement because oftentimes the attendees are also fans of the consumer brands, as well as the developer brand. And so, just that sense of being respected as brand ambassadors on both the consumer and the developer side and that they’re able to walk away and say, “I was inspired, I was shown what was possible, but that I also now have new information to do my job better. And I’ve made really personal, meaningful connections to help me do my job better, to help me think about my next step in my career, to feel supported, to feel recognised”. And I think all of those iconic events understand the different audiences. They understand the type of content and experience for them. And when you go, you get out of it what they intend for you to get out of it.

[Jo] I think that’s so true. I think, you said in the book that you should come away only understanding 2/3 of the technical content if you’re a developer and it gets you fired up to learn more. And I think, certainly with WWC DC you would by far exceed that in terms of not understanding things. I definitely walked away with a very long reading list. I’m not so sure about connections for everybody though. I think there’s quite a perspective that developers are introverted and certainly I find in my experience I’m definitely an introvert and I don’t always find it easy to make connections at developer events because I’m in my own little bubble and I don’t really want to talk to people and it’s a bit embarrassing and I’m British and all this. How do you go about bringing people together so that they do actually interact and engage with one another or engage with the staff that you’ve got on the booth or doing the teaching so that you find that people do actually get the most out of it?

[Katherine] That is such a fun question. Ιt’s something that I really keep top of mind. I’ll answer it in two ways. One is more on the technical experiences side and one is more on the community and social experience side because I think they’re in many ways equally important. On the technical side, when I reflect on the events that we do, we’re really thoughtful about the staff that we choose to be present at the event and really rely heavily on individuals from developer relations. And there are people who are known within the community and by bringing them there and bringing them in, attendees can relate to them because they’re the same. They get one another. And these developer advocates and developer engineers really know how to both create digital technical demos and experiences that welcome and invite people into the conversation. Then, once they established that, they have a sense of how to communicate and relate with one another, I think that’s a really important part of it. On the social and community side, it is really about creating those spaces and making sure people can find them. If it’s birds of a feather, having a very visible and obvious schedule that’s pushed out to them so they know where to be and when and who’s going to be present. And even in the social events, and this gets to the inclusivity piece, is thinking through how are all the different ways people like to interact. And that comes down to everything, from as simple as drink choices that are available, to having quiet spaces within, an event that it’s not one type of social interaction or activity. So I would say that those are ways that I’ve really approached it both in terms of connecting from a technical standpoint and connecting from a social and community standpoint.

[Jo] Yeah, they sound great. I’ll definitely be coming to one of your events.

[Katherine] I hope you will. We still need to meet in person!

[Jo] So before we turn to smaller events, because we’d been talking about some real flagship events, I wanted to talk about possibly the most, glitzy event of the technical calendar, South by Southwest (SXSW), which also happened fairly recently. It’s definitely kind of next generation in many ways, or maybe even like a Ted event. What do you think are the hottest trends in events and, where are we going to get to next, when it comes to the developer events so that we can mimic Ted and SXSW a bit more closely?

[Katherine]     Really good question. I will be frank. I’ve been to SXSW. That was in 2012 while I was still in the ads organization and I gave a lightning talk on the porch of a house on innovations search ad formats. I was in Austin for 24 hours and it poured the entire time. So I had a quite uniqueSXSW. Following along with it in the media, when I think about the developer experience and I think about the type of experiences that are created there and that really resonate, some of it is pushing the boundaries. And while developers are incredibly pragmatic, I think when boundary pushing technology and ideas are presented in a really authentic way and in a humble way, it really does resonate with them. I think that one thing, one lesson that I take from those things is at events that we do, we can’t be afraid to push the envelope, but we need to do it in a way that shows humility. This, again, is my personal reflection, that it needs to show humility. It can’t necessarily promise the world. It needs to be put out there and say, “we’re going to try this thing and we think that this is the direction”. So I think that that’s one element to really take from those, which is: we want to armor attendees with really practical information to do their jobs and be successful, but without losing that they are technologists. And part of what this space is, is always thinking on the bleeding edge and in balancing the innovation and the opportunity. That’s one thing that I think to take away. About the second, I love the use of space at SXSW. I actually really reflect on a time that I spent in Edinburgh Scotland during the Fringe Festival, which for those listeners who haven’t participated in it, it’s a month-long festival of festivals in Edinburgh, Scotland. And one of the most special things about it is where the content is delivered, where the performances are, could be everything from a pub to the basement of a church, tο a car, to a street. I like the different use of spaces and really thinking about how to create large vs intimate, loud vs quiet, learning and connection experiences through the use of space. That’s the second one that I think as I’ve gone to a melange of events at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, is really seeing how the producers of the event are using space and bringing, instead of a city, how do you recreate that within the confines of a conference center or conference space. In terms of the TED talk piece, that’s again, really thoughtful attention to the curation of content. It is that balance of deep technical content, right? Recognizing that people need to free up their brains and learn in different ways. Dipping back into my education pedagogy from that time in higher ed is people’s attention spans are limited and the ability to continue learning diminishes pretty quickly. I can’t remember if it’s at the 40 or 50 minute mark within something. So, having a really nicely curated content list, where people will use their minds and brains in different ways depending on where they are at the stage and their conference journey is really important. I think that’s something that SXSW and Ted do really, really well. The mix in how content is delivered in and who’s delivering it.

[Jo] I see. Yes. I think your point about humility is absolutely right. And it goes back to your point of making the people that are attending, the ambassadors, really. You’re always speaking to them and saying, well, what do you think? You know, where should we go next? This is not us telling you, it’s us working together. And I get the sense that Ted is very much the same, it’s a conversation isn’t it? And light wires coming together and as much it’s done behind the scenes, it happens in front of the camera as if it were part of the presentations. I loved the use of space you mentioned and looking for different venues. I mentioned this on the last podcast actually, but I’ll share it with you as well. There was a game developer event recently in Finland, using quantum computing emulators and they were working in the Saunas and on a Ferris wheel. And I think that’s got to be the most bizarre pairing of locations to work. But you know, why not?

[Katherine]  You know, there’s that line that everyone shares, that the most important track at a conference is the hallway track. And your point of how do you help people connect when you have people who run the scale of extroverted to introverted at an event? It is by creating those spaces in nooks and crannies. If somebody knows they’re going to be more relaxed on a Ferris wheel, create an opportunity for a couple of people to sit together and have a Ferris wheel journey. And I am sure that the quality of those conversations, if they were in their zone, must’ve been incredible.

[Jo] Absolutely. Yeah. So let’s turn a bit to smaller events now, because in some ways they must be more difficult in the scope. You know, when you have a smaller group of people to work with. I’ve done events, for example meetups, where it’s a startup, so it’s all hands to the pump. Everybody has to be involved from the most introverted kernel developer through to the marketing team. Everyone’s got to get out there and press the flesh and take names and it was uncomfortable for us doing that because some guys, had never been to an event before. You know, the young actors, they’re not really into it. So how do you, how do you work with a meetup and get people to come together in the same way that maybe a more professional team that’s had that experience, would automatically sort of dive into things. How does this event work? Say if you had a group of people that said “hey, we want to do a meetup on something. We’ve all got day jobs, but we’re all fascinated by code and computers and we want to work together”. How do you guide them?

[Katherine] That’s a really good question. I feel like in the moment, we’re quite spoiled and how we answer that because platforms like have come to be what really facilitates that connection and that discoverability. Even reflecting on what the experience would have been like 5 to 10 years ago, I think my answer would have been quite different. When we think about community work, we think about all of the things that you just said: which is what is the minimally viable product (MVP)? What is the time, the location, the space, the food that is going to make people want to take those two hours out of their evening to come and spend time with one another? Really having that critical mass of individuals who have a shared affinity. My experience with meetups has been quite fortunate, not only because of the platform technology side of things, but it’s been done through other larger scaled community efforts, whether it be through Google developer groups or having event managers who are supporting different chapters of open source communities. So, my experience is probably a little bit different, but I think my advice for people would be to really leverage platforms, things like because the search functionality makes it discoverable, to really leverage connections and relationships within networks. I think that becomes such a huge piece. If, you know, someone knows someone who works there, “Hey, can you ask if we can get that space?” And especially if it’s at larger companies or incubators and shared coworking spaces, many of them are now set up with event request processes to actually make it quite easy and somewhat turnkey for those meetups to come into this space. And so, probably in the same way that folks deliver career advice, I would give very similar advice back from the meetup space, which is, really to think of the folks that you’ve met throughout your journey, introductions and connections that they can make, to give you that space and that foundation to then be bringing people together. And then, I think as well, on the content side, many of the large tech companies want to be finding scaled ways to get into these communities as speakers, as contributors, as community builders. And so not just to be tapping into the network for space, but also to be tapping into them, because companies are really hungry to be present and to help foster and grow these groups.

[Jo] Yeah, that’s very true. I think people don’t realize just how much help they’ll get if they ask for it. It can make a big difference between people coming home and say, you know, I met somebody from this company and I asked a question and I now understand why this book hasn’t been fixed or why this speech is being delayed. And they’ll go back and they’ll keep going back because, that’s what you want, isn’t it? You want people to give up their time and come to my event. It’d be awesome to think that, you know, if we’ve talked through this, that maybe somebody listening is inspired to run a user group meeting or a meetup and, you know, just give their hands to it and see who turns up. I’m almost tempted myself I must admit. So yes, if you’re out there listening and you’re interested please let us know on Twitter it will be fantastic too. Anyone that wants to set up an event, particularly if they want to tell us about it or get any advice. I think we’re pretty much closing Katherine. I suppose I wanted to ask you before we go, what do you think the hottest trend will be in developer marketing couple of years, from your observations over your 13 years prior to that?

[Katherine] Wow, that’s a great question. I know I keep saying that, I must sound like a broken record, but this is just really fun. I enjoy being challenged with these questions.

[Jo] For example, do you think it will be Ferris Wheels?

[Katherine] Uh, I don’t know about Ferris wheels, but when you challenged me to ask that, and this is actually the historian in me that says – actually what I studied in university is – I actually look back over the years that I’ve done developer marketing and developer relations to say what has and has not changed in terms of the practice. And, to me, perhaps this isn’t where I see it going, but more where I hope to see it going. I think the things that have really worked and that have really stuck have been when, when technology is really invested in by a company or if it’s something that’s very experimental, that it’s really positioned as such. I think that there’s such an opportunity to lose trust from developers. If something doesn’t work or doesn’t have longevity and isn’t stable. And so, to me, my hope for the future, if you will, is just companies and platforms continuing to focus on that. That again, it’s kind of that really, really radical pragmatism if you will, just continuing to make sure that it comes down to what do the users really need to be successful? If I extrapolate on that, where I hope to see that trend is, is really thinking about what those next million or billion users are both from the consumer side of how do we think about how technology is used globally and how people can access that technology and make sure that we’re developing platforms and APIs and tooling that allow developers to actually create experiences that can be used globally.

Whether you’re a farmer in Kenya that has a weak mobile signal or somebody sitting in the luxury of Silicon Valley. That’s one, one direction I hope to see it continue to go. And then I think the second is in terms of building up those next million or billion developers is really inviting and welcoming into the fold a diverse and inclusive set of technical practitioners. That’s the way. We’re not just going to get there and making technology pervasive and accessible and thoughtful by having the platforms that work globally, but also making sure the people building that technology, understand and think and know who those users are and what they need. And, and the way you do that, is having a diverse and inclusive set of developers. So those are the trends that I hope for.

[Jo]  Yes, yes. The people and communication. It’s such an important part of it. And let’s hope that you have this wish granted, even if you didn’t get to work for President Hillary Clinton, at least this is one thing that does come true.

[Katherine] That’s what drives me every day when I come to work. So…

[Jo] Well, it’s been fantastic talking to you. Thank you so much for taking the time out to take part in this “Under the Hood of Developer Marketing” podcast. And it was a pleasure working with you on the book and I’m sure we will be updating and continuing to write great content about this topic for many, many, more episodes to come. So thank you so much. I will close now by saying thank you to the listeners. Thank you for listening to “Under the Hood of Developer Marketing” a podcast devoted to developer marketing and relations. If you want to listen to any other episodes, you can subscribe at and follow us on Twitter at @slashdataHQ for regular updates. Thank you.

Unity leads the way in developer satisfaction

As software continues to eat the world (to paraphrase Marc Andreessen), software developers fulfill an ever more critical role in the progress of technology and, by extension, society. Supporting developer productivity is good for business. Those developers then become innovators – co-creators – that give a boost to your core business.

It’s also challenging. Developer programs consist of a myriad of activities, ranging from simple providing sample code and developer education, to tooling, to in-person events and online communication. It’s hard to be great at everything, and it’s hard to allocate effort and money effectively for maximum impact.

Every six months we benchmark top developer programs against each other. First, by measuring what developers value in those resources and activities, in all its diversity across several segments of the developer population. Second, by highlighting the best practice leaders: those vendors that are doing an excellent job in specific aspects of developer programs, to whom you can look for inspiration and insights on how to improve. There is no single leader across all of the 20 activities we measure – everyone can improve somewhere.

unity leads developer satisfaction

The top spot in terms of developer satisfaction is taken by Unity, with an overall developer satisfaction score of 75 out of 100. Unity shows exceptional performance on several attributes: tutorials, how-to videos & webinars, and official forums. This may be skewed by the fact that their products cater to a specific subset of developers (game developers) who might score attributes differently than others.

Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla are not only among the largest developer programs; they lead the pack in terms of developer satisfaction and engagement. Other major developer companies like Amazon, Facebook, Oracle, and Apple follow at some distance.

This doesn’t imply, however, that only the companies with the most traction and the biggest budgets can create excellent developer support programs. The living proof of that are Unity and Tencent. As we said, Unity has the highest developer satisfaction of all programs in our list. Tencent, the producer of WeChat who mostly addresses a geographical developer segment in China, has a developer satisfaction on par with Facebook and well beyond Twitter’s, and one of the highest levels of engagement in our survey. Other companies like Intel and Cisco may have moderate overall performances, but lead the way in important attributes such as training, technical support, or access to devices.

The study above shows data from the 12th edition SlashData Developer Economics survey. Over 21,200 respondents were asked which developer programs they used and how satisfied they are with them. These respondents came from 162 countries around the world and span mobile, desktop, IoT, cloud, AR/VR and machine learning developers and data scientists. The results were collected by SlashData over a period of six weeks between November and December 2016.

To access the full study drop us a note at or download the brochure

Google’s Instant Apps is the power grab that ActiveX couldn’t make

At this year’s Google I/O conference the search giant announced Instant Apps – Android applications dynamically downloaded, installed, and executed, with a single click. Slick functionality, certainly, but functionality which comes at the price of undermining the openness of Android as a platform. Instant Apps will be part of Google Play Services, not Android, and so alternative distributions will be left in the cold.

20 years ago Microsoft tried something very similar, and with the same justification. Microsoft failed, so it’s worth taking a moment to see why Google will probably succeed.

It was 1996 when Microsoft broke out of the browser sandbox with ActiveX, a technology providing the same functionality as Instant Apps. Just like Google, Microsoft’s primary motivation was extending its control over the platform, but Google will likely succeed where Microsoft didn’t, so what’s altered since ActiveX failed to change the world?

ActiveX was designed to compete with Java Applets – a technology from Sun which solved the same problem using Java. Java Applets run within a slightly-larger sandbox, designed to prevent the applet doing any damage, while permitting more functionality than a web page alone.

ActiveX didn’t come with a sandbox: downloaded code runs native with all the performance, and capabilities, that implies. These days an ActiveX download requires user approval before running, but at launch the only protection was the digital signature from Microsoft.

Which wasn’t enough. The public overwhelming recoiled from the idea of letting downloaded applications automatically run without a sandbox, while the Java Applet sandbox proved woefully insecure. Modern browsers (Chrome and Edge) don’t support either type of downloaded content by default, forcing companies still reliant on ActiveX to use IE or install extensions.

But the concept was valid, and sandboxed content is more popular than ever. JavaScript is part of almost all web sites, and executes in a sandbox in much the same way as a Java Applet. Native applications, meanwhile, are getting more restricted as mobile platforms pioneered the idea of applications that could be trusted a bit, but not entirely.

Android and iOS provide granular security, a sandbox-with-extensions. An application can ask for permission to access the camera, but won’t be allowed to make phone calls if it didn’t request the right.

At first glance Instant Apps look very much like ActiveX. Digitally-signed applications will be downloaded and executed without user interaction, and will be able to access device resources which would normally sit outside the sandbox (such as the camera and NFC chip). These applications will be signed by Google, but the user will not be given a list of requested permissions, and will not have the option of rejecting them either. While it might seem that Instant Apps inherent all the downsides of ActiveX, it’s been a long time since ActiveX failed as a web technology, and much has changed.

ActiveX suffered from having to support multiple operating systems, and slow download times, but Instant Apps are only on Android and when a single web page already averages more than 2MB* the additional load of a small app isn’t significant.

Which brings us back to security, and why Google will do a much better job than Microsoft ever could. The fact is that Android, and other modern operating systems, are compartmentalised into sandboxes at every level, making the sandbox the default operating environment rather than an exception to the rule.

Once it had been approved, and digitally signed, an ActiveX application could do anything – write to arbitrary memory addresses, interfere with data stored by other applications, rewrite the OS to act as a reproduction engine (the latter being why we call them “viruses”), enjoying a level of freedom denied to any approved application running on Android, no matter who approves it.

The architecture of Android means that Instant Apps won’t rely on the certification process of Google Play. They will still run within the sandbox which surrounds all Android applications. Even more importantly – all the Instant Apps will be delivered from Google’s servers. That means a misbehaving app can be instantly removed from circulation, and Google will curate the applications to ensure none make use of permissions they don’t need.

The paternal management is new. A company like Google can keep a careful eye on how Instant Apps develop, and tweak their capabilities as they go along. The permanent beta has become Agile development, and the company managing the platform has become a guiding hand which won’t let go.

Instant Apps will have security issues, the Android compartmentalism isn’t perfect and there will be a few well-reported breaches, but Google will move swiftly to patch and secure the system. Alternative distribution stores, tolerated on Android, will likely be excluded from Instant Apps, and users won’t be permitted to opt out of Google’s control.

Competing distributions of Android will struggle to provide similar functionality, and even if they do it won’t be compatible, bringing Android more under Google’s control. Instant Apps will provide useful functionality, just as Google has been demonstrating at its developer conference, but at the cost of locking out the competition.

Instant Apps will succeed where ActiveX failed. Better compartmentalisation and centralised management will secure it, and users will appreciate it, but the real winner will be Google who squashes alternative app stores and outmanoeuvres alternative Android distributions, all in the interest of providing greater web-site functionality.


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.]


“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?



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,.


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).


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.

The trillion dollar choice for car makers: control or cooperate?

[Will the car become little more than a smartphone accessory on wheels? This question is highly relevant after the recent CarPlay and Android Auto announcements. Car makers face a choice that could well determine their success for many years to come: keep tight control over the in-car experience, or cooperate with Apple and Google and benefit from the immense value that they have created. But do car makers have a choice at all?]


“Will there be head units in the future, or just mirrored phones and devices?” Annie Reddaway kicked off the Q&A section of a webinar about the app mania in cars with this simple enough question from the audience to expert speakers from Ford and INRIX (at the 38 minute mark). She might as well have asked: will the car become little more than a smartphone accessory on wheels?

A long, tense silence followed. This question – highly relevant after the recent announcements of CarPlay (at the Geneva Motor Show last March) and Android Auto (at Google I/O in June) – clearly touches a nerve with even the most forward-looking car makers like Ford.

After a pause, John Ellis, self-proclaimed “software guy” at Ford, answered that the concept of what is a head unit will evolve, moving somewhere along a continuum from dumb screen to fully integrated app system. (Note the resemblance with the much-feared “dumb bit pipe” scenario for mobile telcos. Not a coincidence.) Let’s see if we can pinpoint where we might land along this spectrum.

The trillion dollar dilemma

Car makers face a critical dilemma. You can either have full control over the car’s functionality (i.e. in-vehicle apps), or you can embrace Apple and Google in the car, benefitting from the immense value that they create in smartphones and from their automotive initiatives. But you cannot have both.

What do we mean by control? In answering the head unit question, John Ellis paints a picture of what’s at stake: “You have to remember that we’re building an object that’s going to be used by people who, at the tender age of 16, get taught what a stop sign looks like. (They don’t get taught how to drive a car!) And then they buy these very high-end, safety-equipped vehicles and then take them out at speed.” Or, as another automotive insider put it: “We make one of the few products that literally kills people.” ‘Control over apps’ means accepting the liability of what happens when a user crashes the car while using an app, which will inevitably happen. With that liability comes a great responsibility to curate and shape what goes into the car, certainly when it is made by third parties.

So far, car makers have opted to retain tight control to avoid liability. However, this has slowed them down in creating value for users and in competing with over-the-top solutions, like just using your smartphone while driving. Once more John Ellis: “We [the users] are demanding personalization at a rate that is far in excess of what [car] OEMs can handle.” Automotive has become a market where choice and innovation-by-open-experimentation, not engineering, are the basis of competition. Car makers are far out of their comfort zone, as we’ve explored in-depth in our March report on connected car apps.

The alternative to fighting this losing battle is to delegate (and therefore give up) control over in-car apps to over-the-top players. Companies like Apple and Google can solve fragmentation and are experts in developer-centric innovation, i.e. in building vibrant communities of software entrepreneurs. They’ve proven in the mobile space that they know how to create massive value for users and developers alike. Car makers can leverage the expertise of ecosystem specialists, and then use it to their own gain. More and more of them are willing to consider, as the graph below shows.

Isn’t this a utopia? Won’t car makers be blown away if they embrace Apple and Google into their products? I don’t think so. In mobile, companies like Facebook, Amazon and WeChat have proven that the model when these companies leverage rather than compete with ecosystems can work very well too.

Carplay Android Auto adoption v2

Mobile precedent: why an OTT future might be inevitable

If the mobile industry’s history is any indication, car makers might be taken in speed. There are several strong arguments why an over-the-top future for in-vehicle infotainment will be inevitable, despite the best efforts of car makers to stay in control. (After all, telcos and handset makers had the exact same intention in the pre-iPhone era).

  1. The basis of competition in automotive has changed. We know that the basis on which people make car buying decisions has irreversibly changed, with in-car technology taking a more prominent role. Smartphones are driving people’s expectations of what car infotainment should offer. People don’t want to be connected with their car, they want to be connected with their life while in the car, and smartphone ecosystems are best positioned to offer that. A 2013 Accenture study found that 61% of people find it essential or important to have the same operating system on the dashboard and on their devices. (see Q10)
  2. It’s a predictable new market disruption. If you’re familiar with Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Solution, in-car technology might seem like a deja-vu of his transistor radio example. While transistor technology was not a good solution for table-top radios in the 1950s, it resonated with youngsters who wanted music on the go (even at worse quality). The millennial generation today doesn’t care too much for the car as a status symbol or for driving experience. They care about digital lifestyle and about a personal transportation solution that might be multi-modal, doesn’t necessarily involve car ownership, and is above all convenient to get from A to B. Is it any wonder that they’ll turn to the familiar mobile players first? Watch this video if you want to see this generational difference play out before your eyes. Car makers will have to get creative with their products and their business models and optimize them for new customers who may not be interested in buying a car as it exists today.
  3. The differences in development lifecycle favor an over-the-top solution. People replace their smartphones on average every 2 years. Cars last a multiple of that; many manufacturers offer 5+ years of warranty, so a 10-year lifetime wouldn’t be surprising. Cars also take much longer to design. The result is that at any time, the technology in your car is likely to look inferior to that in your phone, if not outright obsolete. On which of the two platforms would you prefer to build your functionality? Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen (here and here) knows what he would choose. He concludes that cars will become accessories to the phone, not the other way around. Car screens should (and will) be 100% tethered and controlled by the up-to-date device in your pocket. In a poll at the Consumer Telematics Show (Jan 2014), 54% of experts agree that “standardized integration of mobile devices” will be the best way to align with the speed of development in consumer electronics devices. My colleague Mark Wilcox offered the only alternative: “If car makers don’t want the in-car computer to be dumb glass with a better GPS antenna and speakers then they need to make cheaply replaceable head units and swap them out at every service.”
  4. Company inertia too favors the challengers. The capabilities, resources, processes and business models needed to successfully innovate with car apps are nicely aligned with those needed to innovate with mobile apps. Developer-centric innovation is in the DNA of Google and Apple, while it is a very different mode of operation than that of a traditional car business. As many of you will know, it’s very difficult to get anything at all done in a large organisation, let alone change its core. Based on this, over-the-top players will have an easier time implementing the new regime, which gives them a substantial head start over car makers.

Taking the lesson from the smartphone revolution, we even have a pretty clear picture of how exactly control over in-vehicle software will move from car makers to over-the-top platforms; a scenario that today might be unthinkable for many in the industry.

How the mobile industry was overturned in 5 easy steps:

  1. The proprietary portal Telcos attempt to build their own tightly controlled service “portals” (incl 3rd party apps). This fails, as it is too restrictive for both users and developers.
  2. Tactical gain for early adopters Several over-the-top players come in and are adopted by small subset of incumbent telcos and handset makers who seek short-term tactical gain. They might be able to sell an extra high-value connectivity service or become more attractive to the large/affluent OTT player’s customer base.
  3. New basis of competition The over-the-top players redefine what is important when buying a phone. Smartphones who have integrated the OTT solution take off in popularity. Consumers show a disregard for traditional metrics of performance in favor of the new platform.
  4. Must-have status The popularity of over-the-top solutions quickly makes them a must-have for all handset makers. All other OEMs are forced to adopt, or see their market share and/or profitability eroded. (see image below)
  5. Shift of control With wide-spread adoption, control over the app ecosystem moves inevitably to the over-the-top platform players. Telcos and handset makers become “decision takers”, not “decision makers”, as they no longer have the market power to enforce own rules.


Can we replace telcos and handset makers with car manufacturers in the story above?

The first three steps are already clearly in motion in the connected car market. (See our report for a full discussion). Car makers are making their own app stores, with almost no apps or user traction. The table illustration above shows how some car makers will certainly adopt CarPlay and Android Auto (due to their large traction in smartphones) and possibly others like MirrorLink. The Accenture study mentioned above already clearly shows the shift in customer criteria when buying new cars.

When looking at the list of car makers who promise to adopt CarPlay and Android Auto, we might even argue that stage 4 is underway as we speak. Already we can see that OEM-specific head unit software will not remain a differentiator. It might be a lowest common denominator, i.e. having the top internet radios on the car, like now an AM/FM radio is included.

If the scenario plays out, then Apple and Google will soon become the guardians of driver safety – they will be the ones applying driver distraction rules and curating apps. It will cement their position as ecosystem owners.

Be prepared

The odds are stacked against car makers as the controllers of apps and guardians of driver safety. It looks like they have already stepped on the slippery slope that will eventually shift control to over-the-top car app platforms. The pattern is remarkably similar to the events that occurred in the mobile industry, with the same key players and just a few short years ago.

Car makers would do well to prepare to embrace the alternative choice: welcoming over-the-top platforms and leveraging them to sell more cars and boost profits.

If not, they risk losing the control anyway, without the leverage to boost their core business. One only needs to look at the shifts in the handset industry to appreciate how serious a scenario that is. Many of the ‘kings of mobile phones’ from 2006 are now out of business, have been acquired, or are in deep trouble. Handset profits have shifted to just two companies who understood what was going on and acted correctly.Telcos from their side have seen their VAS business replaced by apps, and are now seeing their core business of messaging and voice being pressured by non-telco apps with superior value propositions.

On the other hand, car makers that succeed in leveraging CarPlay, Android Auto and other platforms await a bright future. Also for this scenario, many examples can be found in the mobile industry. Smartphone maker Xiaomi, a 4 year old startup the leverages Android and builds it own differentiated services on top, sold 26 million devices in H1 2014. That’s already more than in all of 2013 and puts the company in the global top 10 of smartphone makers. In its home market China, Xiaomi outsells Apple and has already outsold market leader Samsung on two occasions. OTT² platforms like Line see revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, built on a commodity messaging base.

So what will the choice be? Over the coming years and decades, trillions of dollars in car revenues ride on this question.

Who will be the iOS and Android of IoT?

[Put together, the announcements at Google I/O and from Apple, Samsung, Nest, Quirky and others in the past weeks paint a crystal clear picture of where the future of the Internet of Things is heading. Our latest report on the topic gives you the right tools to separate winners from losers in the IoT race. In this post, we line up the candidates in smart homes, smart cars and health.]


The blast of IoT-related announcements in the past days and weeks, including at Apple WWDC and Google I/O, are more than an indication that the Internet of Things is picking up pace. Put together, they also offer a crystal clear picture of where the Internet of Things is heading.

The major players have put their stake in the ground:

  • A lot of attention at Google’s I/O conference went to the Google Wear and Google Fit announcements. At the same time, Google-owned home automation company Nest – known from its thermostat, smoke detector and now security camera (Nest acquired Dropcam) – has opened up its API to developers.
  • With the “Works with Nest” program, the company is positioning itself as the central hub for connected devices in the home; and it is not alone. Crowdsourcing product development site Quirky announced Wink, a hub + app + cloud platform that together with Nest is going to provide some strong competition for that other hub-in-the-home startup: SmartThings. Quirky is an interesting player as its backed by GE, with whom they have been partnering on a range of smart home solutions.
  • Apple announced HomeKit and HealthKit at its WWDC developer conference, adding to its push into the car earlier this year with CarPlay.
  • Samsung, finally, announced its own health platform SAMI and sensor designs Simband last month.

The common theme is that [tweetable]all these recent IoT announcements focus on developers more than products. Why is that?[/tweetable]

All these companies have understood a fundamental truth about the Internet of Things. IoT is not about technology or features or devices or connectivity. We explain this idea in depth, and with many more examples, in our new report – IoT: Breaking Free of Internet and Things.

[tweetable]The biggest opportunity in IoT is in thousands of niches and use cases, just waiting to be discovered[/tweetable] by tweaking and experimenting with new ideas.

How do you deal as a company with such diversity and unpredictability? How do you design products for future unknown needs? Luckily we have some recent examples of companies that solved this conundrum. In the past 6 years, Apple and Google propelled themselves to top positions in mobile by fostering vibrant communities of innovators (app developers) that together unlocked countless new use cases and needs, from silly (Flappy Bird) to life saving (PocketCPR).

We’ll leave the full discussion of the exact mechanics for another time, but with the smartphone model in hand, it becomes clear what the companies above are trying to do. They want to achieve the same kind of dominant position as Apple and Google in mobile, using the same recipe. And some of them inevitably will.

The stakes are high. Successful community owners will gain immense competitive advantages, typically leading to winner-takes-all markets. The game is on: [tweetable]who will be the equivalents of iOS and Android in the Internet of Things?[/tweetable]

Who will be the kings of IoT?

Three areas in particular seem on the brink of seeing Android/iOS-like ecosystems of entrepreneurs gaining momentum: home, health and cars.

In the home, there are at least 4 serious ecosystem contenders.

  1. Apple signalled its intentions by releasing HomeKit, the developer API that enables discovery and control of third party connected devices. Some clever people (e.g. at Forbes and Macworld) have pointed out that the Apple TV might be the perfect substrate for a HomeKit-driven hub.
  2. Google has made a clear investment in the home with its $3.2B acquisition of Nest, as well as other initiatives like Android TV and ChromeCast.
  3. GE has been building momentum with its Quirky partnership and now the Wink platform.
  4. Meanwhile in startup land, SmartThings has been pursuing this ecosystem vision for almost 2 years since its headline-making Kickstarter campaign.

In health and wellness, things are heating up too. Fitness wearables like Pebble, Razer, Nike+ and Fitbit have successful SDKs with tens of thousands of registered developers. However, in our new report we explain that the bigger opportunity is in combining and mashing up data from different sources. That is the core functionality of the following candidates:

  1. Apple puts its stake in the ground with HealthKit.
  2. Samsung did the same with the SAMI platform. Samsung is in a unique position to bundle an IoT platform with hardware (components, not devices), for example the set of reference sensors (Simband) that they announced at the same time. This strategy is also the basis for the company’s success in smartphones. Samsung can also bring a large amount of Samsung device users into play; a strong carrot for ambitious IoT entrepreneurs.
  3. Google has been playing with wearables for a while (Android Wear, Google Glass). At Google I/O, the company announced Google Fit, a set of APIs that will “blend data from multiple apps and devices”.
  4. Again there are several startups on the scene – Human API and Validic come to mind.

In cars too, we find a mix of internet giants, car maker incumbents and startups that are building developer platforms. We discussed them in depth in our March report “Apps for Connected Cars? Your Mileage May Vary”.

  1. Apple took the lead earlier this year by announcing CarPlay.
  2. Google is following suit with Android Auto, backed by the Open Automotive Alliance with all the major car makers. The announcement mentioned that “Android developers will soon be able to create entirely new experiences for the car” – a clear hint at Google’s intentions to empower a community of entrepreneurs to discover unexpected user needs.
  3. Microsoft has Windows in the Car.
  4. The leading platform-oriented car makers are Ford with AppLink and GM.
  5. Interesting startups with an “over the dashboard” play include Dash and Carvoyant.

What about the sectors that have historically been the focus of the Internet of Things industry, like utilities (smart metering), industrial applications or smart cities? While they represent attractive business opportunities, these arenas focus mostly on solving well-understood needs for known customers. As such, they are not likely to sprout ecosystems that can spectacularly break open the IoT market.

On the other hand, we might see some unexpected platform players coming on the scene. One set of strong candidates focuses on a different part of the IoT challenge: selling and distributing the physical products. Amazon has made its opening in the Internet of Things with a dedicated online storefront and with back-end services (Kinetics), a simple expansion for its AWS infrastructure. We’ve written earlier this year about the plans of Chinese e-commerce company (together with Baidu) to set up a service line for IoT entrepreneurs.

The wheels are in motion

Time will tell who will take the top position, but the wheels are clearly in motion.

As time goes by, hardware becomes less and less a barrier to entry. Just look at Cruise, an 8-person startup that built a self-driving car in record time with low-cost sensors and components. Dedicated Internet of Things platforms are booming (we count 50+ so far). The cost of connectivity is dropping. This allows entrepreneurs to focus on making sense of data and drive meaningful action, more than on solving underlying technology problems.

As this trend continues, VisionMobile forecasts a fast growth of the IoT developer base in the next years, reaching well over 4 million innovators and entrepreneurs by the end of the decade. With every new use for Internet of Things technology that they discover, demand will grow and this market will become more attractive still. Exciting times!

How can you separate winners from losers in the Internet of Things? Whether you’re a developer, investor or platform company, our IoT report will allow you to make the right bets. Download your copy now.


From 4 to 4000 apps: disruption deja-vu in the car industry?

[What if cars were like mobile phones? There are some eerie similarities between the approaches of car makers in 2014, and operators and handset makers in 2008. Will car makers be disrupted in the same way that the mobile industry was? Senior analyst Stijn Schuermans shares his feeling of deja-vu.]


“Cars are the biggest and oldest mobile devices. We are the face of mobility. We’ve been around for over a century. But we welcome the competition from newcomers like Apple and Samsung.”
— paraphrasing John Ellis (Head of Ford’s developer program) at CES 2013

Let’s entertain that thought for a moment. What if cars were like mobile phones?

At the moment, they would be like the feature phones of yesteryear. Today’s mainstream cars have 4 “apps”: driving from A to B (obviously), climate control, music (AM/FM radio, CDs, and more recently internet radio) and GPS navigation.

Feature phones in 2008 Cars in 2014
Telephony Driving
Texting Climate control
Contacts GPS navigation
Camera Music

In fact, this is not the only parallel we can draw between these two industries, as car makers are betting heavily on the concept of apps in the car. There are some eerie similarities between the approaches of car makers in 2014, and operators and handset makers in 2008. We’ve listed some in our latest report: “Apps for connected cars? Your mileage may vary”.

QNX is the new Symbian. Genivi is the new LiMo. Windows Embedded Automotive is the new Windows Mobile. Just like mobile operators in 2008, car makers are very hopeful that apps under their control will bring significant new revenue streams from value-added services. Developers are named “partners”, but it is clear that car makers (as were telcos) are mostly see them as suppliers of content and treat them accordingly. (For the full list, take a look inside the report.)

How mobile was disrupted

Can we use this insight – car apps are just like mobile, shifted in time – to predict the future of the car app market? In our report “The Telco Innovation Toolbox” (2 years old, but still highly relevant), we showed what has happened in the mobile industry.

From the 4 “most wanted” apps of the feature phone days (according to market research acquired at great expense, no doubt), we went to smartphones with now over a million apps, encompassing every imaginable user need. Service distribution and industry power shifted from telcos to mobile platforms: Android and iOS.

Fundamentally, the basis of competition in the mobile industry shifted from reliability and scale (which network has the most bars) to choice and flexibility (which handset has the most apps). This wealth of applications unlocked a user demand that far exceeds that of a selection of “best” or “most important” features in a product designed by a single organisation.

The same shift in cars?

Can the same shift happen for car apps? Will the basis of competition for car makers change from reliability and scale in the production of cars and infotainment systems, to choice and flexibility of in-vehicle and out-of-vehicle services that will unlock new user demand? We believe it can, and it will.

Already car makers like Ford and General Motors and over-the-dashboard players like Mirrorlink, Apple, Google and most recently, Microsoft are working towards app platforms for cars. The introduction of Apple’s CarPlay, Google’s Open Automotive Alliance and Microsoft’s Windows in the Car seems to herald a tipping point in the industry. Here are players that have a deep expertise in fostering vibrant ecosystems, in building developer communities and in enabling developers to add value. There is now a realistic and acute possibility that these new entrants will sweep away the existing car app platforms with a dominant, over-the-top solution, just as they did in the smartphone world.

In short, car makers should take the following statement as a heads-up:

Now you know what’s at stake. Find out how the car industry is changing and what to do about it. Our full report on automotive developer programs is available as a free download.

No, Google is not going 'horizontal' by selling Motorola

Another excellent move by Google: Offload Motorola Mobile Devices to Lenovo, while keeping the patents to themselves.


Skimming through the news this morning, I found there is apparently a lot of confusion about the planned sale of Motorola by Google. From decrying a huge loss by Google by such infotainment sites like Wired and Slate, to seeing Google giving up on copying vertical integration of Apple (hardware + software + services), like Stratechery by Ben Thomson.

Let’s look at things from a broader perspective. The acquisition of Motorola was necessary to protect Android, after Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry outbid Google for Nortel patents. The Apple-Microsoft-BlackBerry trio made it very clear that they intend to put a drag on then-fledging Android ecosystem and extort royalties from Android OEMs. The cost of doing nothing was huge for Google – just think how much more nasty the patent wars may have turned out for Android if the acquisition hadn’t taken place. Any “profit and loss” analysis of the Motorola deal must account for the opportunity cost associated with Motorola patents. Android is, was and will be critically important for Google’s core online ad business, as I will explain in a bit. Continue reading No, Google is not going 'horizontal' by selling Motorola

The Naked Android

It had become painfully clear to Android’s executives: they had officially lost control. Something had to be done. There was only one option: to strip Android naked. Senior Analyst Stijn Schuermans explains how Google made it tough for ambitious rascals to fork Android and dump Google.


It had become painfully clear to Android’s executives: they had officially lost control. The operating system had been forked by Amazon and too many Asian handset makers. Worse, it had become too easy to replace Google Play with a proprietary app store yet leverage existing Android apps; too easy to replace Google’s services (Maps) with 3rd party alternatives (Nokia’s HERE). Even the Android brand wasn’t the king of the hill anymore, being eclipsed by Samsung’s Galaxy.

Something had to be done. There was only one option: to strip Android naked. Continue reading The Naked Android