On November 7, OutSystems announced that it had acquired Ionic. A few years ago, that would have shaken the mobile development industry, and even today, it will cause vibrations in parts of it. We see three major dynamics in application development that are shaping the future of software development and this market:

  1. The scarcity of quality development talent — IT leaders repeatedly tell us that finding skilled talent is difficult and time-consuming.
  2. The need to deliver more value faster — our research indicates that businesses that can move faster and shrink time-to-market are more adaptable and more profitable.
  3. The quality of low-code tools and their ability to meet enterprise and commercial software challenges is resulting in a tectonic shift toward enabling nondevelopers to create commercial-quality software products.

In light of those dynamics, what should you do about this acquisition? Here’s our advice:

  • If you’re an OutSystems user, this acquisition brings a lot of new engineering talent to OutSystems as well as control of the Ionic roadmap; expect the OutSystems platform roadmap to benefit. You’re also likely to see more focus on micro frontends as OutSystems integrates the Ionic Portals code. Depending on the size of your app, this might help you — or it might not. Read The Temptation Of Micro Frontends to learn why.
  • If you’re an Ionic user, there’s no need to panic. OutSystems is promising no changes, at least in the short term. You can continue to use Ionic, and it will continue to be open source. OutSystems has said so, but more importantly, changing the license after you have open source contributors is hard. In the longer term, expect OutSystems to concentrate less on building the Ionic open source community in favor of open core and its commercial customers.
  • If you’re building Ionic components, there may eventually be an opportunity to monetize that via the OutSystems store by adding a glue layer that allows OutSystems integration. OutSystems is likely to document an API that makes it easy to bring Ionic plug-ins into their environment.
  • If you’re an employee of Ionic, you’ve probably been nervous about seeing the Stack Overflow trends that show Ionic losing ground as Flutter and React Native trend up. But OutSystems will use Ionic as a core component and will need to keep it strong. Over time, OutSystems may allocate you away from open source components toward its core business and the fast-growing low-code market.
  • If you’re creating a low-code platform that uses Cordova today as your mobile output format, it’s time to look at your roadmap. The natural move before today was to run your Cordova code on Ionic/Capacitor for mobile. But as of today, that’s ceding control of your destiny to OutSystems. Figure out what your path to a new UI will be now that the “simple choice” is no longer simple.
  • If you’re creating a low-code platform that uses Ionic today as your mobile output format, your competitor now owns the way that you create mobile apps. Deals hinging on your mobile capabilities will be directly impacted — in a competitive situation, OutSystems can now say “That’s our technology.” This will be especially awkward once Ionic is fully integrated into the OutSystems platform. In response, consider moving to different mobile output formats such as native, React Native, or Flutter.