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Low-code application development platform provider Mendix is moving its software into the massive Chinese market, which is as hungry for new applications as enterprises in the U.S. and EU.
Placing low-code tools into the hands of Chinese developers will make them more productive and thus competitive with U.S. and EU app developers, analysts say. Indeed, the need to accelerate digital transformations may be even greater in China, where early adopter companies including SAIC Motor, CIMC Vehicles and Maxnerva Technology Services have already begun using the Mendix low-code platform to speed up app delivery.
SAIC Motor is one of China's largest automobile manufacturers, CIMC Vehicles is a manufacturer of semi-trailers and Maxnerva Technology Services is an affiliate of Foxconn that focuses on smart manufacturing, smart office and new retail solutions.
"China has a massive demand for low-code apps -- like all developing economies," said Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research.
Siemens eyes broader opportunity in China
Mendix's parent company Siemens has led the low-code vendor into the Chinese market, using its manufacturing expertise as leverage. Siemens' sales teams signed the early adopters to deals late last year because those companies could not wait for Mendix to formally make its entry into the Chinese market, said Pranshu Tewari, chief marketing officer for Mendix.
"The win for Mendix was when they got acquired by Siemens and started getting introduced into Siemens deals," said John Bratincevic, an analyst with Forrester Research. "There is a growing demand globally for low-code platforms. This is a good example of how Siemens can take Mendix into markets and deals that a smaller company couldn't do alone."
John BratincevicAnalyst, Forrester
Siemens is looking to reap a return on its $700 million investment in Mendix.
"It's more that Siemens wants to do more business in China," Mueller said. "Given China is the manufacturing powerhouse of the world, any manufacturing automation, supply chain management application needs to be there."
However, from an intellectual property (IP) perspective, Siemens may have to go through "significant hoops" to protect the Mendix IP, he added.
Late to the game
Mendix is not the only low-code platform vendor in China. In fact, Mendix is somewhat late to the game. OutSystems, Pega, and Appian, to name a few of Mendix's most direct competitors, have been doing business in China for years, said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst at Intellyx in Suffolk, Va. OutSystems has been selling in China since 2012, the company said.
"What I think is important about this announcement is the fact that Siemens has had business in China with its industrial products, and now it's bringing the Mendix low-code platform to those companies, as well as SI [systems integrator] partners like SAIC," Bloomberg said.
Getting Mendix into more systems integrators could help to spread the use of Mendix and add to the productivity that could become a competitive advantage for Chinese companies, he noted.
In a recent study, Forrester cited Mendix noted that, like many others in the market, Mendix is adding artificial intelligence capabilities to its platform to make development easier. Mendix has a feature called Mendix Assist, which offers suggestions for which steps developers should take next to increase productivity and application quality.
For certain industries such as smartphone manufacturing, China is already known for its low cost and efficiency. Where low-code might make a difference are in sectors such as financial services.
"I think there is an opportunity for China to be more competitive in those industries where its existing business advantages of low-cost labor at scale are less of a factor," Bloomberg said.
Low-code platforms enable developers to build applications faster and cheaper and to maintain these applications more cost efficiently. Low-code tools also help to democratize application development, bringing non-programmers such as the emerging class of "citizen developers" into the app dev fold.
The overall application development industry itself continues to grow more competitive, with major companies such as Oracle releasing a new managed low-code application development service version of its APEX platform.