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A Dozen Predictions for 2008

A guesstimated picture of software development circa 2008

2007 was a good year. The IT job market was stable. Mankind got an iPhone. While there were not any revolutionary changes in the way software was developed, I believe that this was a year of rich Internet applications and Web 2.0. YouTube became a part of the lives of millions of people around the world. A large portion of the population visits use MySpace and Facebook daily.

What's next? What language/tool/technique to learn? What's the next big thing in IT? In my opinion…

1. Java will remain strong in large enterprises, but will continue  losing ground as a development platform for small businesses.  J2EE is way too heavy, and scripting languages and frameworks offer an alternative and productive way of software development  when the cost of development is more important than performance and scalability. The LAMP platform will remain a preferable way to develop applications for small to medium businesses.

2. AJAX popularity may  go downhill. Since the first day this acronym was created I’ve been writing that it's not a good choice for developing enterprise applications. But the vast majority of the software world was (and still is) marching the AJAX way. This time it’s more of a hope than a prediction that in 2008 people will realize that AJAX should serve the same goal as JavaScript – making your Web pages a little prettier. Expect to see the re-branding of some of the AJAX frameworks into RIA or Web 2.0 solutions.

3. Speaking of Web 2.0… Even though Web 2.0 was not officially defined, I think it’s all about giving more control to the users of the Web sites. The more interactive a Web site is, the higher the number people will put in front of the zero – 3.0, 4.0, and so on. Some people say that Web 3.0 is about Semantic Web. If you bought a grill on Amazon.com, they can guess with high probability that you might be shopping for rib-eye steaks. Check it out the next time you visit the site. It’s all about control. From the user’s side and from the vendor’s side. We’ll see more and more interactive sites next year. While some people are planning to write next-generation sophisticated software, others will come up with a very simple, easy-to-implement  but appealing business idea, and the next 20-year billionaire is born. 

4. Flash Player will remain the best deployment platform for rich Internet applications. While Microsoft is trying to come up with a competitive delivering platform for RIA, it’s not going to happen in 2008. Silverlight 1.0 is a good start, the next version (1.1) will be even better, but it’ll take time to release a product that can do more than streaming multimedia.

5. Ruby on Rails will take a small share of the market of small non-mission-critical Web applications. Convention over configuration. Speed of development over performance. While Ruby on Rails will not become a framework of choice, it has achieved a very positive result – people have started to realize that not every project has to be developed in either Java or .NET. Besides, RoR is a well-designed framework that will become a good design sample for the new frameworks of the future.

6. Internet video will be booming and I’m not talking about YouTube. Internet Video will start being a part of a number of enterprise applications. This process won’t be fast, and  you have an opportunity to be among the early adopters in this sector.

7. Outsourcing will gain more and more ground despite the fact that it’s very expensive and the project failure rate is high. The reason is that the U.S. has almost stopped producing software engineers. It’s just a matter of time before everyone gets used to the fact that business software is made in India, just like we all know that all toys (with or without lead) are made in China. But innovation in software will still be happening in America. I guess, there’s something in the air here. Re-read an old but valid article by Paul Graham about why Silicon Valley can’t be exported.

8. Apple - next year I’ll finally purchase a MacBook Pro for myself… if my Sony Vaio will die. Even if it won’t die, having a two-year-old machine is a good excuse for submitting  a purchase order to my wife for approval. Peer pressure, a cool design and the ability to run Windows (plan B),will force me to ignore the high price.

9. Adobe Flex and AIR - Flex will become the #1 tool for developing enterprise rich Internet applications, and I’ll be seeing 10% fewer raised hands when asking an audience, “Raise your hand if you do not know what Flex is?” Adobe AIR’s adoption will be slow though. Or course, the shops that are already sold on Flex will use it, and some AJAX developers will realize that it may become a lifesaver for their applications, but that’s about it. While being a well-designed and very promising technology  (Flex, Flash Player, HTML, JavaScript, PDF, SQLLite DBMS, an ability to work in a disconnected mode,  and full access to your PC’s resources), it may be perceived as yet another  Web browser, which is a tough sell in the enterprises.  At least, become an early adopter. I will.

10. Telephony. If 2007 was the year of Skype, we’ll see some interesting development in this area. Skype is a great product, but it requires you to download and install software. In the era of RIA, things can be done without it. Watch the Ribbit phone software that will allow you to make calls and receive e-mails just from your Web browser.

11. IT job market in the USA.  While we’ve enjoyed a stable demand for IT professionals in 2007, it won’t last and next year we’ll see project freezes and even layoffs. The reason is the burst of the real estate bubble. This will affect not only those simple people who were brainwashed and decided that they could have afforded an American dream.  CEOs of major Wall Street corporations are being fired after drowning their companies by getting into bad mortgage debt. Among other things, the IT budget will be severely cut. As you know, today on Wall Street, is tomorrow on Main street. Use the training budget of your employer now if it’s not too late. Keep your skills up to date.

12. The hottest IT skills of 2008. When the job market is tight, recruiters immediately increase the list of skill requirements for job opennings. You’ll see job postings that expect you to know a number of programming languages ranging from Cobol to C++. Knowing just one hot tool does not cut it anymore. But if you have limited time and need money, start by learning tools for developing rich Internet applications. The skillset of a highly paid Web developer, at a minimum, has to include the following skills: HTML,CSS, JavaScript, J2EE or.NET, Flex or Silverlight, AJAX, and good communication skills. You do not have to really learn AJAX, but must add AJAX keyword to your resume, otherwise you may not even get a job interview.

13. The next big thing. Software development will change to a wider use of code generators. Forget about heavy frameworks, regardless of what programming language you use.  In a simple case, use some XML style sheets combined with the metadata that describes your application objects to automatically generate the code for these objects. On a larger scale, the entire application may be described using metadata and XML, and an appropriate code generator will do the job. So programming will change from writing tedious code that requires lots of coders to describing the metadata and writing custom code generators.

Happy New Year!

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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