After years of high expectations for Amazon’s low-code platform project, its Honeycode product has finally arrived. Unfortunately, in its present release, Honeycode is far from the market disrupter that we and others expected from Amazon.
The goal for the platform is clear: Combine the intuitive simplicity of a spreadsheet with the power and scale of a database and the end user experience of a modern app. The strategy is sound, and the pieces are there. But, as a citizen developer of many years who has used many different low-code products, I found the Honeycode development experience initially approachable, but ultimately nonintuitive, especially concerning UI. For example, binding UI components to enter simple text into the database proved absolutely confounding to me — I have faith it can be done, but I still haven’t figured out how.
My experience and initial assessment suggest that spreadsheet users will likely feel the platform’s limitations when compared to Excel. Database builders will certainly wonder where the power of the database is hiding, and UI enthusiasts will at first be enticed by the palette of app components … only to find that using those components is far more complicated than they bargained for. In short, Honeycode is lightweight, immature, and sorely in need of polish.
Amazon appears to be creating low-code development products use case by use case — just like it develops cloud services. Honeycode as a simple database-builder is the vendor’s third low-code product, following Amazon AppFlow for integration and QuickSight for business reporting. Each of these products addresses only a narrow set of use cases with table-stakes functionality, though we expect that they will eventually be integrated.
Amazon’s traditional product development approach has worked spectacularly well for the pro developers who use cloud services. But customers’ expectations are different for low-code platforms:
- Citizen developers (Amazon’s target audience for Honeycode) need a polished and intuitive development experience, which is not yet achieved in Honeycode (at least as far as the UI builder is concerned).
- Customers want low-code platforms that address many use cases. Amazon’s three offerings would be much more interesting if they were integrated and matured together. Also, a process modeling and workflow engine is notably absent from these offerings.
- Customers also want innovation in either the development experience or the functions the platform provides. There is little that is new in Honeycode; Amazon appears to be seeking to commoditize tools rather than innovate.
The conclusion? For now, Amazon Honeycode will not change the market dynamics in low-code development platforms. In fact, the decision to release the product in its current state causes us to question Amazon’s understanding of this market and its direction. Can Amazon figure it out? Certainly, it’s Amazon. Will they? That remains to be seen.