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 sales@slashdata.co or download the brochure

Mozilla Boot2Gecko: can the new HTML5 champion succeed where webOS failed?

[A new mobile operating system is born. Telefonica and Mozilla have teamed up to deliver Open Web Devices. The ambition is high: displace the Apple/Google duopoly and commoditize app ecosystems. But can they do better than earlier attempts like WebOS? VisionMobile business analyst Stijn Schuermans sheds light on the challenging road ahead for this new platform candidate.]

VisionMobile: Mozilla Boot2Gecko: The new HTML5 champion?

People say that I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one.
John Lennon

Mozilla, the company behind Firefox (until recently the number two desktop browser) and top-5 mobile operator Telefonica are co-developing a new mobile operating system. The project is codenamed Boot2Gecko by Mozilla and devices running the OS are dubbed “Open Web Devices” by Telefonica. The goal is a phone that relies entirely on web technology and where all applications, from the dialler to games, are developed with HTML5.

At the MWC 2012 conference in Barcelona, Mozilla ran a demo of Boot2Gecko on a Samsung Galaxy II, a high-end smartphone. At the same conference, Telefonica showed the new operating system on a low-end reference design from Qualcomm, which will become available on low-cost smartphones at a sub-Android price point. Mozilla also announced the Mozilla Marketplace, an app store for web apps.

B2G Home screenOn the surface, this joint move by a major telco and a major Internet player makes a lot of sense. Mozilla and Telefonica are trying to disrupt the Apple/Google duopoly, starting from the low-end. By focusing on providing a good user experience on very low-end devices, Telefonica hopes to capture the emerging markets first. The telco plans to introduce direct-to-bill payments for mobile app purchases, as credit cards are not common in the emerging markets that the initiative targets.

As explained in Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, starting at the low end of the market is smart: the easiest way for Android device makers to protect their profitability is to leave the low margin devices to Open Web Devices and focus Android on higher-end devices, targeted at people who do have credit cards. This is the best way to disrupt Android. Google’s reaction will likely be lukewarm, as their interest is only in driving eyeballs to Google ads, which can be done perfectly from either platform.

A disruptive strategy like this provides Telefonica with the opportunity to give Google a taste of its own medicine. Telcos are under big pressure from the application ecosystems of Apple and Google, which now own the customer relationship and are pushing down the value of the carriers to dumb bit pipes. If telcos are not full participants in the application ecosystem, then why not commoditize apps entirely? For Telefonica, Open Web Devices are an attempt to reduce the power of the major platforms and their vertical application silos by moving app development and distribution to a more “neutral” web-based environment. If applications are primarily developed in a cross-platform way, the platform’s power weakens. Mozilla is an ideal partner for telcos to achieve this, being a fundamentally not-for-profit organization with a mission to keep the Internet open and free.

Mozilla and Telefonica are a good match in general for realising B2G as a competitor to Apple/Google; Mozilla can add the software foundations (APIs) and the developerecosystem around it, while Telefonica adds the OEM deals, monetisation and app store.

On paper, Boot2Gecko could be the new web-based platform that succeeds where webOS failed; it is open source (unlike what webOS used to be), it has multiple OEM partners interested, it is backed by a top-5 telco and it comes at a time when HTML5 has technically evolved and enjoys widespread industry support. Indeed, B2G could be the champion that leads HTML5 from being an enabling technology to achieving full platform status. The reality is that a lot needs to be done for that to happen.

In essence, the elements behind Telefonica’s Open Web Devices are not enough to win the hearts and wallets of consumers and developers:
– Openness is a way to reduce developer marketing costs, but adds little value for end users.
– Web is not a synonym for better user experience or the platform with which to appeal to games developers.
– Devices running a web-based OS is a valid way to compete with Apple/Google, but a very expensive one, given that billions of dollars will have to be invested by Telefonica and handset OEMs before the OS reaches maturity and has a sizeable addressable market. Note that Microsoft is paying Nokia circa $1 billion a year to buy its way into an addressable market.

For Boot2Gecko to succeed, it needs to compete with the other mobile platforms on all five key ingredients:
1. Software foundations, a rich set of APIs with managed fragmentation. Telefonica has already contributed a lot of the device API glue code to Boot2Gecko (based on the carrier’s earlier work within WAC). However, competing with iOS, Android and WP7 is a major long-term effort.
2. A developer ecosystem, to spur innovation and cater to diverse use cases. There are millions of web developers out there, who need to be “onboarded” onto B2G, i.e. on its specific APIs and app distribution system.
3. Devices & distribution, i.e. a large addressable market of 10s of millions of phones sold each year. As a top-5 telco, Telefonica is a major success factor here, but needs to translate OEM intentions (notably from LG who’s an early partner) into project investments and volume commitments. A positive factor here is that B2G is running on the same reference designs and based on the same kernel and core libraries – and so, quicker to bring to market than Windows Phone.
4. Monetisation. Monetisation is essential to the creation of a healthy developer ecosystem – and Telefonica intends to provide carrier billing.
5. Retailing. It is still unclear which partner will be responsible for providing  the on-device storefront, retailing and merchandising of apps to end users.

To their credit, Telefonica and Mozilla are progressing fast with Boot2Gecko. The first experiments started in October 2010 and the project really kicked off in March 2011. The phone demonstrated in February 2012 wore all the key core apps (dialler, phonebook, inbox, etc.) and a UI experience that is claimed to be better than the lowest-end Android handsets. The handset demonstrated by Telefonica runs on the same hardware as the original iPhone 3G, but can be sold at 1/10th of the price according to our sources.

This said, other contenders to the HTML5 platform crown, like Facebook Platform and Google Chrome, are already far more advanced in creating a viable ecosystem. Both Facebook and Chrome (the browser, the OS, but especially the web store) have already amassed substantial traction across screens and have solved at least some of the distribution, retailing and monetization challenges. The Mozilla Marketplace is a step in the right direction, but the organization has a lot of catching up to do.

Moreover, there is an obvious and much cheaper substitute to these attempts to create web-app platforms that Telefonica and other telcos need to consider, if their goal is to disrupt the Apple/Google duopoly. Cross-platform development tools [see our full report – www.CrossPlatformTools.com] make it much easier for developers to reach multiple platforms and flatten the competitive landscape of Apple and Google’s ecosystems.

In summary, Telefonica and Mozilla are making a very serious attempt at disrupting the current iOS/Android duopoly of application platforms. They do well to focus on low-end devices and to attack the link between apps and the platforms they run on. But using HTML5 technology or being open is not enough. Mozilla, in particular, has to prove that it can draw in web developers to this new platform and create a vibrant ecosystem. Telefonica not only needs to get OEMs enthusiastic, but also committed to produce phones in volume. Finally, it is unclear how this initiative can outrun the competition, Facebook and Chrome or whether Telefonica and Mozilla should instead invest in the alternative approach of cross-platform development tools.

– Stijn

Want to know more? VisionMobile offers deep insights into the HTML5 ecosystem and how it stands to disrupt the Apple/Google duopoly. Check out the latest research note in our CEO Trendwatch service (send an email to stijn@visionmobile.com for access), or our Mobile Innovation Economics workshop.

[Infographic] The Open Governance Index – A new way of measuring openness

We are proud to present our latest infographic – the Open Governance Index, measuring the relative openness of 8 major open source projects, from Android to WebKit. This infographic presents some highlights from our full report (free download here). The Open Governance Index is authored and researched by VisionMobile, and part-funded by webinos

Feel free to copy the infographic and embed it in your website (embed codes below the infographic).

Infographic- The Open Governance Index - A new way of measuring openness
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[Report] A new way of measuring Openness, from Android to WebKit: The Open Governance Index [Updated]

[Much has been said about open source projects – and open source platforms are now powering an ever-increasing share of the mobile market. But what is “open” and how can you measure openness? As part of our new research report (free download), VisionMobile Research Partner Liz Laffan introduces the Open Governance Index – a new approach to measuring the “openness” of software projects, from Android to WebKit]

Update: We have been amazed by the amount of interest to our Open Governance Index (OGI) report that we published just over two weeks ago. Our report was covered in mainstream media across Wired, ZDnet, PCPro, Gizmodo, ARS Technica, BGR, Zeit Online and ReadWrite Mobile. Our intention was to start a debate around ‘what’ openness is, ‘how’ it can be measured and ‘why’ it is important – and we certainly got the ball rolling!

Open Governance Index cover

Openness = governance

We at VisionMobile have been researching, investigating and helping to educate the industry about open source for the past five years.  In this time open source software has been transformed from geekware to business as usual. Much has been written and debated regarding open source licenses – from the early days of the GPL license to the modern days of the Android platform.

Despite the widespread use of open source, from Android to WebKit, there is one very important aspect that has been neglected: openness and how to measure it.

Openness goes far beyond the open source license terms and into what is termed Governance. While licenses determine the rights to use, copy and modify, governance determines the right to gain visibility, to influence and to create derivatives of a project, whether in the form of spin-offs, applications or devices. And while licenses apply to the source code, governance applies to the project or platform.  More importantly, the governance model describes the control points used in an open source project like Android, Qt or WebKit, and is a key determinant in the success or failure of a platform.

VisionMobile - Licensing vs. Governance Models

The governance model used by an open source project encapsulates all the hard questions. Who decides on the project roadmap? How transparent are the decision-making processes? Can anyone follow the discussions and meetings taking place in the community? Can anyone create derivatives based on the project? What compliance requirements are there for creating derivative spin-offs, applications or devices, and how are these requirements enforced?  It is governance that determines who has influence and control over the project or platform – beyond what is legally required in the open source license.

In today’s world of commercially-led mobile open source projects, it is not enough to understand the open source license used by a project. It is the governance model that makes the difference between an “open” and a “closed” project.

Measuring openness

Our research (free copy of full report here) showcases eight mobile open source projects: Android, MeeGo, Linux, Qt, WebKit, Mozilla, Eclipse and Symbian.  We selected these projects based on breadth of coverage; we picked both successful (Android) and unsuccessful projects (Symbian); both single-sponsor (Qt) and multi-sponsor projects (Eclipse); and both projects based on meritocracy (Linux) and membership status (Eclipse).

All of these are open source projects, whether platforms (Android, MeeGo, Qt, Symbian) or engines (Linux kernel, WebKit) or multi-project initiatives with a single, uniform governance. We appreciate that these projects are unique in many ways but they are all ultimately open source projects and to that extent our governance measures can be applied to them all equally. For example all of these projects have decision-making groups and processes that are directly comparable. In the Open Governance Index we attempted to document who these decision-makers are, how they operate, what processes are used to determine project decisions and how easily is to influence these project decisions.

Our research, carried out over a six-month period, included analysis of these popular open source projects, through discussions with community leaders, project representatives, academics and open source scholars. This research was partially funded by webinos, an EU-funded project under the EU FP7 programme, aiming to deliver a platform for web applications across mobile, PC, home media (TV) and in-car devices.

We quantified governance by introducing the Open Governance Index, a measure of open source project “openness”. The Index comprises thirteen metrics across the four areas of governance:

1. Access: availability of the latest source code, developer support mechanisms, public roadmap, and transparency of decision-making
2. Development: the ability of developers to influence the content and direction of the project
3. Derivatives: the ability for developers to create and distribute derivatives of the source code in the form of spin-off projects, handsets or applications.
4. Community: a community structure that does not discriminate between developers

The Open Governance Index quantifies a project’s openness, in terms of transparency, decision-making, reuse and community structure.

Does openness warrant success?

But what is it that makes an open source project successful? Why do some projects become an immediate success, while others barely get off the ground before crashing and burning? We know that just like commercial ventures, open source projects have different cultures and drivers – but we do believe that you should be able to measure the way that open source projects interact with the community of users and contributors that they build up around themselves.

Our research suggests that platforms that are most open will be most successful in the long-term. Eclipse, Linux, WebKit and Mozilla each testify to this.  In terms of openness, Eclipse is by far the most open platform across access, development, derivatives and community attributes of governance.  It is closely followed by Linux and WebKit, and then Mozilla, MeeGo, Symbian and Qt. Seven of the eight platforms reviewed fell within 30 percentage points of each other in the Open Governance Index.

Moreover, our research identified certain attributes that successful open source projects have.  These attributes are timely access to source code, strong developer tools, process transparency, accessibility to contributing code, and accessibility to becoming a committer.  Equal and fair treatment of developers – “meritocracy” – has become the norm, and is expected by developers with regard to their involvement in open source projects.

The Android Paradox

We found Android to be the most “closed” open source project. In the Open Governance Index, Android scores low with regard to timely access to source code in that the platform does not provide source code to all developers at the same time; it clearly prioritises access to specific developer groups or organisations and has acknowledged this with the delayed release of Honeycomb. Additionally Android scores low with regard to access to developer support mechanisms, publicly available roadmap, transparent decision-making processes, transparency of code contributions process, accessibility to become a committer (in that external parties cannot ‘commit’ code to the project) and constraints regarding go-to-market channels.

Android ranks as the most closed project, with an Open Governance Index of 23%, yet at the same time is one of the most successful projects in the history of open source. Is Android proof that open governance is not needed to warrant success in an open source project?

Android’s success may have little to do with the open source licensing of its public codebase. Android would not have risen to its current ubiquity were it not for Google’s financial muscle and famed engineering team. More importantly, Google has made Android available at zero cost, since Google’s core business is not software or search, but driving eyeballs to ads. As is now well understood, Google’s strategy has been to subsidise Android such that it can deliver cheap handsets and low-cost wireless Internet access in order to drive more eyeballs to Google’s ad inventory.

Equally importantly, Android would not have risen were it not for the billions of dollars that OEMs and network operators poured into Android in order to compete with Apple’s iconic devices. As Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO, said in June,2011, “Apple created the conditions necessary for Android”.

Moreover, our findings suggest that Android would be successful regardless of whether it is an open source project or not, to the extent that the vast majority of developers working on the project (the platform itself) are actually Google employees.

 Evolving the Open Governance Index

Having published the report, we aim to continue the discussion on governance, to refine our criteria even further and to make the OGI measure as meaningful as possible for the open source community. One of the first suggestions has been with regard to having a time dimension to the criteria i.e. does openness change over time. Mature open source projects such as Eclipse, Linux and WebKit that have stood the test of time, score quite highly with regard to openness of governance. But this has not always been the case. For example consider the following. Apple forked KHTML to create WebKit in the early 2000’s, releasing the first WebKit open source project in 2005 but with reviewer and commit rights restricted to Apple personnel only which effectively sidelined the KDE community. In 2007 however Apple reversed this decision allowing allow non-Apple developers to have full commit access to the WebKit source code version control system. This shows that openness can and does change over the project lifecycle.

Our vision for the Open Governance Index is to for it to be a robust, and as much as is possible, an objective measure of Governance for open source projects. We believe that this is necessary such that users and contributors to open source projects, including commercial entities, understand the means by which they can, or cannot, influence the direction and content of the project.

Download the full report for an in-depth analysis of the openness of Android, MeeGo, Linux, Qt, WebKit, Mozilla, Eclipse and Symbian. Drop us a line and tell us what you think.

– Liz

Addendum – Is copyleft more or less open?

We awarded a higher score to those licenses that are permissive and not copyleft licenses. Firstly it should be noted that all the licenses used by the eight mobile open source projects are Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved and meet the Open Source Initiative Definition, which provides for free redistribution of source code, access to source code and ability to create derived works amongst other requirements. We believe that the OSI is the appropriate arbiter of the appropriate Open Source License definition and all of the licenses used by the open source projects researched in this report meet this definition of being ‘open’.

However we also believe that from a commercial viewpoint there is still some concern about using code that is under a copyleft license – our experience of working with mobile software development organisations confirms this. Our findings suggest that organisations will be more comfortable using permissive licenses which do not mandate copyleft requirements and we reflect this in our criteria and scoring. We are happy to continue debating these findings further with the community. For example it has been suggested that the problem here is not with copyleft licenses but with the business model used by those organisations. Be that as it may, our experience is that this concern is still a valid one being expressed by many organisations, especially in the mobile device domain.

Finally we had a methodology typo which unfortunately survived the proof reading: assigning a bonus to “copyright assignment”. We fully acknowledge that copyright assignment is unnecessary – indeed we state this in our analysis of Qt whereby we acknowledge copyright assignment as inappropriate and a heavy-handed requirement.

[Liz Laffan is a Research Partner at VisionMobile. Liz has been working in the telecoms and mobile industry for over 20 years, with large telco organisations, start-up technology ventures, software development and licensing firms.  Liz’s interests lie in open source software governance and licensing and in particular how best can commercial organisations interact with open source projects.  She can be reached at liz [at] visionmobile.com]