- Amazon Web Services just launched Honeycode, a no-code tool that makes it easy for users to build apps from a spreadsheet without having to write code.
- Analysts agree that this was a step AWS had to take to stay competitive as no-code and low-code tools are becoming key for cloud companies to have in their product portfolios, but it will face stiff competition from Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce, and even smaller vendors like Smartsheet or Mendix.
- AWS’s core audience has long been more technical developers, but analysts say Honeycode can attract the next wave of developers and business users who will want to build apps without having the technical skills to do so with code.
- AWS is entering the low-code and no-code market at a time when it’s poised to see rapid growth. As businesses digitize and adopt remote work more permanently, there will be a greater demand for apps to help manage work, analysts say.
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Amazon Web Services is making moves into the red-hot market for tools that let nontechnical users build apps with little to no code. Its new no-code tool, Honeycode, allows users to build apps from a spreadsheet without having to touch any code at all — similar to tools like Airtable or Appsheet, which Google acquired in January.
Tools that let non-developers build apps are seeing increased demand in the remote work era, as businesses have a greater need to digitize but not enough developers to build tools from scratch. A Gartner report published in March estimated that 75% of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools by 2024 — both within their IT departments and for projects undertaken by non-engineers within the company. That will likely be accelerated now due to the pandemic, analysts say.
AWS had to create a no-code tool to compete with its competitors, as such products become a key part of other cloud portfolios, those analysts said. They also warned that AWS is entering a crowded market with competition from both big players like Microsoft and Google and smaller startups, too, though some said that because the market is growing so fast, there’s room for AWS to make its mark despite the late start.
Until now, Amazon was one of the only large cloud vendors that hadn’t yet invested in the space. Microsoft’s Power Platform product has been gaining traction, Google acquired AppSheet which lets users build apps using Google Sheets, and Salesforce has long had no-code and low-code tools in its platform. Honeycode is AWS’s bid to grow its customer base beyond its typical developer user base and target business users.
“As more and more industries are relying on software as part of what they do, there’s more and more demand for developers,” KellyAnn Fitzpatrick, industry analyst at RedMonk, told Business Insider. “One thing that no-code and low-code promises to do is allow folks who do not necessarily have in depth coding skills to build applications that their organizations need.”
AWS has typically appealed to developers but doesn’t have many products that appeal to non-technical users. It will will be going after a totally new customer base with Honeycode, some analysts added.
“The low-code, no-code movement is really removing a layer and expediting the process of building applications that can help companies solve problems faster,” Dan Newman, an analyst at Futurum Research said. “Amazon or AWS getting into this space, shouldn’t surprise anyone.”
AWS’s Honeycode is taking on Microsoft and Google Cloud
Many analysts see two main competitive challenges for AWS as it enters the no-code market. The first is that it doesn’t have a productivity suite or business applications where it’s already built a customer base, unlike both Microsoft and Google. Its second challenge is that it doesn’t have business applications it can connect to Honeycode to pull data from.
Honeycode is similar to a lot of existing no-code tools and uses a spreadsheet interface that many non-technical users are already familiar with using. However, that means that, on the surface, there’s not much to differentiate it from other tools on the market like Google’s AppSheet, Airtable, or Glide.
On top of that, Amazon doesn’t have any existing products that would draw in a large non-technical customer base and provide a backbone for the no-code tool, said Jason Wong, an analyst at Gartner. “Why is this better than what users can do on Power Apps or AppSheet or dozens of other tools already out there?” he asked.
Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Valoir, echoed those thoughts and added that Amazon’s primary buyer is in IT: Those users are not typically interested in low-code app development tools. She thinks it will be a challenge for Amazon to make itself more appealing than other low-code tools that have built a business audience.
She also adds that Microsoft and Salesforce already have business applications for sales, services, and financial and resource management, which users can pull data from for the no-code or low-code tools they offer.
“The advantage of the low-code is that I can expose application data, get access to application processes quickly for business users,” Wettemann said. “If it’s just a spreadsheet behind it without the integration of application data, it’s limited in its value as an app.”
AWS’s larger ambitions with Honeycode
Despite the competition, many analysts agree that this was a step AWS had to take to stay competitive with companies who started investing in no-code and low-code tools earlier.
It’s a way for AWS to try to expand its business, which has long focused on developers. Given how simple Honeycode is, this is likely Amazon’s way of testing the waters, Wong said.
Honeycode was released in a trial mode and has a free version that up to 20 users can access, so Wong sees it as a data gathering exercise. AWS will see what kind of traction it gets and use that data to inform where it takes the tool next. That AWS chose to build a no-code tool in-house, versus acquiring a startup, means it probably has plans for integrating it with other AWS tools down the line like AppFlow, which integrates data between various cloud tools, Wong added.
To differentiate itself from other tools already available, Wettemann said she thinks AWS may acquire a business application that handles enterprise resource management or supply chain management that can connect to Honeycode. Saying “we have it too” won’t be a compelling enough reason for people to turn to AWS for a no-code tool, she said, but an app integration could add some additional value.
Maribel Lopez, principal and founder of Lopez Research, sees Honeycode as a way for AWS to expand its core developer audience. Most of its users are technical, but Honeycode takes “the concept of app coding to the masses,” she said, and could attract a second or third wave of users by making it easy to develop apps.
“Is Honeycode going to revolutionize Amazon’s business? No,” Lopez told Business Insider. “Is it something that’s going to create more stickiness and potentially broaden their base of people who use their app dev tools? Yes, and that’s important.”
Amazon is betting on the no-code, low-code market at a time when it’s predicted to grow rapidly
Ultimately, analysts say that AWS is entering the low-code and no-code market at a time when it’s poised to see rapid growth. As businesses digitize and adopt remote work more permanently, there will be an ever greater demand for apps to help manage work.
“AWS understands that in everything — from AI, no-code, to automation — speed is going to be one of the biggest differentiators of business in the future,” Newman said. “How quick can you take an idea and turn it into a reality?”
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said although competition will be intense, he doesn’t think it will be a winner-take-all market.
For smaller startups to succeed, they will have to specialize in certain industries like financial or healthcare. Meanwhile, large players like Microsoft are taking the approach of meeting all of a company’s application needs, from no-code to developer tools, and others like Google will take a predictive technology approach that helps suggest to users what data they should be connecting and building apps from.
Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, also says it adds competition for smaller vendors like Smartsheet and Mendix, even if AWS is later to the game than others.
“It’s definitely a bit of interesting news,” Castañón-Martínez told Business Insider. “On one hand, it might seem like they’re a little bit late. There’s a lot of competition from different types of players. On the other hand, we have to take them seriously given the reach.”
Cloud giants are looking for ways to help customers address the lack of developer talent, and Honeycode is Amazon’s own shot at doing that.
“These are tools that will help knowledge workers become a software developer of their own day-to-day work and activity,” Castañón-Martínez said.
Amazon wants to expand its customer base beyond developers with a new tool to build apps without code, but analysts say it faces fierce competition from Microsoft and Google (AMZN)