03 January 2014
Here we go again: the annual review of last year's predictions, and a set of new ones for the new year.
Without further ado, first we examine last year's Gregorian prognostications:
<i>"Big data" and "data analytics" will dominate the enterprise landscape.</i>
<b>NOW:</b> Yeah, it was a bit of a slam dunk breakaway kind of call, but it clearly
counts. Vendors and consulting companies were climbing all over themselves to talk
about "big data", and startups basing their existence on gathering, analyzing, displaying
and (theoretically) offering insight from "big data" were all the rage in the startup
community, such as local startup Predixion (CTO'ed
by a buddy of mine). If you live anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, chances are there's
a similar kind of startup within spitting distance of you right now. 1-0.
NoSQL buzz will start to diversify.
NOW: It didn't happen quite as much as I'd expected, but the various vendors
are, in fact, starting to use terms other than "NoSQL" to define themselves. In particular,
we're seeing database vendors (MongoDB, Neo4J, Cassandra being my principal examples)
talking about being a "document database" or a "graph database" instead of being a
"NoSQL" database, though they're fairly quick to claim the NoSQL tag when it comes
to differentiating against the traditional relational database. Since I said "start"
to diversify, I'm going to take the win. 2-0.
Desktops increasingly become niche products.
NOW: Well, this one is hard to call. Yes, desktop sales have plummeted, but
it's hard to see what those remaining sales are being used for. I will point out that
the Mac Pro, with it's radically-different internal construction, definitely puts
a new spin on the desktop, but I'm not sure that this counts. Since I took the benefit
of the doubt on the last one, I'll forgot it on this one. 2-1.
Home servers will start to grow in interest.
NOW: I wish I had sales numbers to go with some of this stuff, as hard evidence,
but the fact that many people are using their console devices (XBox, XBoxOne, PS3,
PS4, etc) as media servers means I missed the boat on this one. I think we may still
see home servers continue to rise, but the clear trend has been to make the console
gaming device into a server, and not purchase servers on their own to serve as media
Private cloud is going to start getting hot.
NOW: Meh. I see certain cloud vendors talking about private cloud, but for
the most part the emphasis is still on public cloud. 2-3. Not looking good for the
Oracle will release Java8, and while several Java pundits will decry
"it's not the Java I love!", most will actually come to like it.
NOW: Well, let's start with the fact that Java8 actually didn't ship this year.
And even that, what I would have guessed would be a hugely-debated and hotly-contested
choice, really went by without much fanfare or complaint, except from some of the
usual hard-liner complaint sources. Which means one of two things: either (a) it's
finally come to pass that most of the people developing on top of the JVM really don't
care about the Java language's growth anymore, or (b) the community felt as Oracle's
top engineering brass did, that getting this release "right" was far better than getting
it out on the promised deadline. And while I agree with the (b) group on that, it
still means that the prediction was way off. 2-4.
Microsoft will start courting the .NET developers again.
NOW: Quite frankly, this one got left in dust almost the moment that Ballmer's
retirement was announced. Whatever emphasis the company as a whole might have put
into courting .NET developers back into the fold was immediately shelved, at least
until a successor comes in to take Ballmer's place and decide what kind of strategy
the company as a whole will pursue. Granted, the individual divisions within Microsoft,
most notably DevDiv, continue to try and woo the developer community, but that was
always going to be the case. However, the lack of any central "push" from the company
effectively meant that the perceived "push" against .NET in favor of WinRT was almost
immediately left behind, and the subsequent declaration of the Surface's failure (and
Surface was by far the most public and prominent of the WinRT-based devices) from
most corners meant that most .NET developers who cared about this breathed a sigh
of relief and no longer felt those Microsoft cyclical Darwinian crosshairs (the same
ones that claimed first C programmers, then C++ programmers, then COM programmers)
on their back. Still, no points. 2-5.
Samsung will start pushing themselves further and further into the
NOW: And boy, howdy, did they. Samsung not only released several new versions
of their various devices into the market, but they've also really pushed their consumer
electronics in other form factors, too, such as their TVs and such. If there is a
rival to Apple in the consumer electronics department, it is clearly Samsung, and
the various court cases and patent violation filings are obvious verification of that.
Apple's next release cycle will, again, be "more of the same".
NOW: Can you say "iPhone 5c", and "iPad Air", boys and girls? Even iOS7 is
basically the same OS, with a skinnier font and--oh, wow, innovation!--nested folders.
Visual Studio 2014 features will start being discussed at the end of
NOW: Microsoft tossed me a major curve ball with their announcement of quarterly
releases, and the subsequent release of Visual Studio 2013, and as a result, we haven't
really seen the traditional product hype cycle out of the Microsoft DevDiv that we're
used to. Again, how much of that is due to internal confusion over how to project
their next-gen products out into the world without a clear Ballmer successor, and
how much of that was planned from the beginning isn't clear, but either way, we ain't
heard a peep outta nobody about C# 6 at all in 2013, so... 4-6.
Scala interest wanes.
NOW: If anything, the opposite took place--Typesafe, Scala's owner/pimp/corporate
backer, made some pretty splashy headlines within the JVM community, and lots of people
talked a lot about it in places where Scala wasn't being discussed before. We can
argue about whether that indicates just a strong marketing effort (where before Typesafe's
formation there really was none) or actual growth in acceptance, but either way, I
can't claim that it "waned", so the score becomes 4-7.
Interest in native languages will rise.
NOW: Again, this one is hard to judge. There's been some uptick in interest
in those native languages (Rust, Go, etc), and certainly there's been some interesting
buzz around some kind of Phoenix-like rise of C++, but none of it has really made
waves within the mainstream that I can see. (Then again, I don't really spend a lot
of time in those areas where native languages would have made a larger mark, so this
could be observer's contextual bias at work here.) That said, more native-based languages
are emerging, and certainly Apple's interest and support in LLVM (which, contrary
to it's name, is not really a "virtual machine", per se) can be seen as such, but
not enough to make me feel comfortable saying I got this one right. 4-8.
Hardware is the new platform.
NOW: Surface was a bust. Chromebooks hardly registered on anybody's radar.
Dell threw out an arguable Surface-killer tablet, but for most consumer-minded folks
it never even crossed their minds, it seems. Hardware may be the new platform, and
certainly we're seeing a lot of non-x86-based machines continuing their race into
consumers' hands, but most consumers don't think twice about the hardware as much
as they do the visible projection of that hardware choice, in the operating system.
(Think about it this way: when you go buy a device, do you care about the CPU, or
the OS--iOS, Android, Windows8--running it?) 4-9.
APIs for lots of things are going to come out.
NOW: Oh, my, yes. More on this later, but for now... 5-9.
Well, with a final tally of 5 "rights" to 9 "wrongs", clearly my 2013 record was about
as win-filled as the Baltimore Ravens' 2013 record. *sigh* Oh, well, can't win 'em
all every year, right?
Now, though, let's do the fun part: What does Ted think 2014 has in store for us geeky
- iOS, Android and Windows8 start to move into your car. Audi has already announced
this. Ford announced this last year with their SDK release. Frankly, with all the
emphasis on "wearable tech" and "alternative tech", this seems a natural progression,
considering how much time Americans, at least, spend time in their car. What, exactly,
people will want software developers to do with this capability remains entirely unclear
to me (and, it seems, to everybody else, given the lack of apps for the Ford SDK so
far), but auto manufacturers will put it into their 2015 models just because their
competitors are starting to, and the auto industry is one place were you cannot be
seen as not keeping up with the neighbors.
- Wearable tech hypes up (with little to no actual adoption or innovation). The
Samsung Smart Watch is out, one of nearly a dozen models introduced in 2013. Then
there was Google Glass. And given that the tech industry is a frequent "hype it before
we even barely know it's going to work" kind of place, this one seems like another
fast breakway layup kind of claim. Note that I fully expect that what we see offered
will, in time, be as hip and as cool as the original Newton, meaning that these first
iterations will be stumblin', fumblin', bumblin' attempts to try and see what anybody
can do with these things to make them even remotely useful, and that unless you like
living on the very edge of techno-geekery, there'll be absolutely zero reason for
anyone to get one for at least calendar year 2014.
- Apple's gadgets will be more of the same. Same one as last year: iPhone, iPad,
iPod, MacBook, they're all going to be incremental refinements on what we see already.
There will be no AppleTV, there will be no iWatch, there will be no radical new laptop-ish
thing. Apple is clearly the market leader, and they are clearly in the grips of the
Innovator's Dilemma, and they have no clear challenger (yet) that threatens to dethrone
them, leaving them with no reason to shake up the status quo.
- Android market consolidates further around Samsung and Motorola. The Android
consumer market has slowly been collapsing around those two manufacturers, and I don't
see any reason for that trend to change. Yes, other carriers will continue to offer
Android on their devices, and yes, other device manufacturers will continue to put
Android on their devices, and yes, Android will continue to appear on things other
than tablets and phones, but as far as the consumer electronics world goes, the Android
market will be classified as Samsung, Motorola, and everybody else.
- We'll see one iOS release, two minor Android releases, and maybe two Windows8 minor
releases. The players are basically set, the game plans are already in play, and
nobody appears to have any kind of major game-changing feature set in the wings. 2014
will be a year of minor releases, tweaks to the existing systems and UIs, minor software
improvements, and so on. I can't see the mobile market getting any kind of major shock
or surprise this year.
- Windows 8/8.1/9/whatever gains a little respect, but not market share gains. Windows8
as a tablet OS has been quietly gathering some converts, particularly among those
who didn't find themselves on the WindowsStore-only SurfaceRTs, and as such, I think
the "Windows line" will begin to gather more "critics' choice" kinds of respect, but
that's not going to translate into much in the way of consumer sales. Unfortunately
for the Microsoftians, Windows as of yet doesn't demonstrate any kind of compelling
reason to choose it over the other two market leaders (iOS and Android), and until
that happens, Windows8, as a device OS, remains a distant third and always will.
- UI/UX emphasis is going to start moving to "alternate" input streams. Microsoft's
Kinect has demonstrated that gesture is a viable input technology. Google Glass demonstrated
that eyeballs can drive a UI. Voice commands are making their way into console gaming/media
devices (XBox, etc). This year, enterprise and business developers, looking for ways
to make a splash and justify greater research budgets, are going to start experimenting
with how those "alternative" kinds of input can be utilized in non-gaming scenarios.
Particularly when combined with the rise of automobiles offering programmable SDKs/platforms
(see above), this represents a huge, rich area for exploration.
- Java-the-language starts to see a resurgence of "mojo". Java8 will ship this
year--not even God Himself could stop that at this point. And once it does, Java-the-language
will see a revitalization as developers who've been flirting with Groovy, Scala, Clojure,
and other lambda-supporting languages but can't use them on the job start to bring
those ideas into Java APIs. Google's already been doing this with Guava, but now many
of those ideas--already percolating in some libraries--will explode into common usage.
- Meanwhile, this will be a quiet year for C#. The big news coming out of Microsoft,
"Roslyn", the "compiler-as-a-service" rewrite of the C# and Visual Basic compilers,
won't be of much use to most developers on a practical level, and as a result, this
will likely be a pretty quiet year for C# and VB.
- Functional languages will remain "hipster" tools that most people can't use. Haskell
remains far out of reach for most developers, and that's the most approachable of
the various functional languages discussed. (Don't even get me started on Julia, Pure,
Clean, or any of the others.) As much as I wish to the contrary, this is also likely
to remain true for several of the "hybrid" languages, like Scala, F#, and Clojure,
though I do think they will see some modest growth as some of the upper-echelon development
community begins to grok them. Those who understand them will continue to do some
amazing things with them, but this is not the year I would suggest starting a business
with anything "functional" as part of its business model, because not only will it
be difficult to find developers who can use those tools, but trying to sell developer-facing
things with those tools at the core will find a pretty dry and dusty market.
- Dynamic languages will see continued growth and success. Ruby doesn't look
remains the dominant language for doing iOS development, which itself doesn't look
to be slowing down. More importantly, I think we're going to start to see a rise in
hybrid "static/dynamic" languages, wherein developers can choose (based on the way
they write their code) compiler enforcement as they wish. Between the introduction
of "invokedynamic" in Java7 (and its deeper use in Java8), and "dynamic" in C# getting
some serious exercise in the Oak framework, I'm becoming more and more convinced that
having a language that supports both static and dynamic typing capabilities represents
the best compromise between those two poles of software development languages. That
said, neither Java nor C# "gets it all the way right" on this topic, and I suspect
that somewhere out there, there's a language hacker who's got a few ideas that he
or she will trot out and make us all go "Doh!"
- HTML 5 "fragmentation" will start to echo in the industry. Unfortunately, HTML
5 is not the same thing to all browsers, and those who are looking to HTML 5 as a
way to save them from platform differences are going to start to feel some pain. That,
in turn, is going to lead to some backlash as they are forced to deal with something
they thought they were going to be saved from.
- "Mobile browsers" become just "browsers". With the explosive growth of devices
(tablets and phones) and the explosive growth of the capabilities of those devices
(processor(s), memory, and so on), the need for a "crippled" or "low-end-optimized"
browser has effectively gone the way of the Dodo bird. As a result...
- "Mobile web" starts a slow, steady slide into irrelevancy. ... sites optimized
for "mobile" browsing experiences--which represents a non-trivial development effort
in most cases--will start to drop away, mostly due to neglect. Instead...
- "Responsive web" becomes the new black. ... we'll see web sites using CSS frameworks
(among other tools) to build user interfaces that adjust themselves to the physical
viewsizes and input capabilities of the target browser. Bootstrap is an obvious frontrunner
here for building said kinds of user interfaces, but don't be surprised if a number
- Microsoft fails to name a Ballmer successor. Yeah, this one's a stretch. It's
absolutely inconceivable that they wouldn't. And yet, in all honesty, I can't see
the Microsoft board finding somebody that meets Bill's approval from outside of the
company, and I can't imagine anyone inside of the company who isn't somehow "tainted"
by the various internecine wars that have been fought since Bill's departure. It is,
quite frankly, a mess, and I don't know that it'll be cleaned up before this time
next year. It would be a horrible result were that to be the case, by the way, but...
*shrug* I dunno. Pretty clearly, whomever it is, is going to have a monumental task
in front of them.
- "Programmable Web" becomes an even bigger thing, leading companies to develop APIs
that make no sense to anybody. Right now, as we spin up 2014, it's become the
fashionable thing to build your website not as an HTML-based presentation layer website,
but as a series of APIs. For some companies, that makes sense; for others, though,
that is going to be a seductive Siren song that leads them to a huge development effort
for little payoff. Note, I think almost all companies have interesting data and/or
resources that can be exposed as APIs that would lead to some powerful mashups--I'm
not arguing otherwise. But what I think we're about to stumble into is the cargo-culting
blind obedience to the letter of the idea that so many companies undertake when a
new concept hits the industry hard, as "Web APIs" are doing now.
interest. For those of you who know me from the Java world, remember the 2000s
and the huge glut of open-source Web frameworks that led us all into analysis paralysis
for a half-decade or more? I see absolutely no reason why the exact same thing isn't
Let the forking begin.
- Apple's MacPro machine inspires dozens of knock-off clones. When the MacBook
came out, silver-metal cases with chiclet keyboards suddenly appeared all over the
PC clone market. When the MacBook Air came out, suddenly thin was in. What on Earth
makes us think that the trashcan-sized MacPro desktop/server isn't gong to have exactly
the same effect?
- Desktop machine sales creep slightly higher. Work this through with me before
you shoot it down out of hand: Tablet sales are continuing to skyrocket, and nothing
seems to change that. But people still need to produce stuff (reports, articles, etc),
and that really requires a keyboard. But if tablets are easier to consume data on
the road, you're more likely to carry your tablet instead of your laptop (and most
people--myself wildly excluded--don't like carrying more than one or at most two devices
with them). Assuming that your mobile workload is light enough that you can "get by"
using your tablet, and you don't want to carry a laptop *and* a tablet, you're more
likely to leave your laptop at home or at work. Once your laptop is a glorified workstation,
why pay that added premium for a laptop at all? In other words, I think people are
going to start doing this particular math, and while tablets will continue to eat
away at the "I need a mobile computing solution" sales, desktops are going to start
to eat away at the "I need a computing solution for my desk" sales. Don't believe
me? Look around the office at all the workstations powered by laptops already, and
then start looking at whether those laptops are actually being used as laptops, and
whether that mobility need could, in fact, be replaced by a far lighter tablet. It's
a stretch, and it may not hit in 2014, but I really think that the world is going
to slowly stratify into an 80/20 split of tablets and desktops.
- Dozens of new "cloud" platforms will be introduced, and most of them will remain
entirely irrelevant behind the "Big Three". Lots of the big players are going
to start tossing out their version of a cloud platform if they haven't already (HP,
Oracle, IBM, I'm looking at you), and smaller players are going to start offering
"cloud" platforms of their own (a la Rackspace), but fundamentally, the cloud will
remain a "Big Three" place: Amazon's AWS, Microsoft's Azure, and Google's Cloud Platform.
- We will never see any kind of official announcement, much less actual working prototypes,
around Amazon's "Drone Delivery" program ever again. Sure, Jeff made a splash
when he announced it. Sure, it resonates with the geek crowd. Sure, it seems like
a spiffy idea on paper. Do you have any idea of how much infrastructure and overhead
(and potential for failure that has nothing to do with geeks deploying "anti-drone
defenses") would be involved? No way. What's more, Amazon is not really in the shipping
business (as the all-but-failed Amazon "deliver groceries to your front door" program
highlights), but in the "We'll sell it to you and ship it through somebody else" business.
It's a cool idea, but it'll never, ever, EVER, see the light of day.
As always, thanks for reading, and keep this channel open--I've got some news percolating
about my next new adventure that I'm planning to "splash" in mid-January. It won't
be too surprising, but it's exciting (at least to me), and hopefully represents an
adventure that I can still be... uh... adventuring... for years to come.
Last modified 03 January 2014