Amazon launches cloud service to help non-coders build apps

Key Points
  • Amazon already leads the cloud infrastructure market, and now it's expanding its cloud product lineup with a tool for people who don't code.
  • The Honeycode service will compete with offerings from cloud challengers Google and Microsoft.
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, speaks during the WSJDLive Global Technology Conference in Laguna Beach, California, on October 25, 2016
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon's cloud unit on Wednesday announced the introduction of Honeycode, a service that non-coders can use to write applications.  

The move could help Amazon Web Services broaden its audience beyond programmers. AWS leads the cloud infrastructure market, topping Google and Microsoft. As more services get introduced, AWS aims for customers to spend more money, which is important because the unit accounts for most of Amazon's operating income

Honeycode includes a visual interface that people can use to build applications for a variety of purposes, including scheduling managing tasks and tracking customers, AWS said in a statement. Amazon employees have used Honeycode to plan the launch of the service, and Meera Vaidyanathan, a general manager at AWS, has used it to manage headcount in her organization, she said in an interview on Wednesday. The name of the product was decided in an app that was built in Honeycode. 

The service is free for up to 20 users and as many 2500 rows of data in a spreadsheet that's part of the product. AWS will charge based on storage and number of users. Longtime AWS customers Slack and SmugMug are among those planning to use the service, the company said. The service is available today, currently in one AWS region. AWS plans to make it possible to export data from Honeycode, Vaidyanathan  

The announcement comes months after the departure of Adam Bosworth, who worked at Google, Microsoft and Salesforce before joining AWS as a vice president in 2016. Bosworth created and led the development of a product that was kept secret for years but was expected to be software that people can use to write applications with little to no coding. Bosworth worked on Honeycode at Amazon, Larry Augustin, a vice president at the company, said on Wednesday.

For years, AWS has been popular among professional developers for offering remote computing and storage services. In recent years Amazon has sought to branch out with cloud-based applications for less technical users, such as the Chime video-calling service, but AWS has had less success with those efforts. 

In 2015 Microsoft introduced the PowerApps software for easily building business applications, and in January Google acquired AppSheet, a start-up with no-code application-development tools.

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