Looking Forward to 2010

Last year I put out predictions for 2009. But I don’t want to look like I know things that I really don’t. So instead, for 2010 I’m going to list the technologies I am most looking forward to seeing come to fruition this year. As a tools developer, it’s important to know what things your users will use your tools to build, and for that you really need to know what’s going on in the industry. So here we go. I’m also going to forgo my standard 4 or 5 paragraph length so excuse the extra long post. It’s just easier for me if I capture them all at once.

Mobile

I blogged about this in the past, but what I see happening in the mobile space reminds me so much of the revolutionary days of the early PC market, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s when the ability to program computers came to our homes. The same is now happening with mobile devices, all of which have freely available tools and SDKs and anyone can, and is, writing applications for them. And a rare few are even making money at it. It’s a race to see who wins and despite the early lead by Apple, it’s not entirely obvious to say who will.

In 2010, the momentum will continue to grow. Tablets will be the next battle ground. They should be in the 7 to 12 inch screen size range making them more useful for web browsing than smartphones. They may or may not have a keyboard so we’ll have to get used to using soft keyboards with these things, although, there are rumors of patented technologies that should make it easier. And I expect the power of the SOCs used to build these will grow to make them great little gaming machines.

My main interest in this area is Android. I expect to see Android on more and more of these devices. Right now, I find the Android SDK (including the native development kit) weak for gaming and multimedia and hopefully that will be addressed this year. If it is, it will be a real challenger to iPhone.

New Linux UI

Moblin is currently leading a revolution in the Linux GUI environment space. I think it really brings Linux to the masses with a very clean social networking focused interface. Hopefully we’ll see a wider deployment of it this year, especially on netbooks. But I expect they’ll continue to push it down into the MID space to challenge Android and iPhone there.

The main reason I like Moblin is that unlike Android it really is Linux and uses the same SDK set that you have on Linux desktop. It’s the best hope for seeing applications that are easily ported between the desktop and mobile devices, other than web apps, of course.

The other advantage of being Linux and being open source, is that the underlying library that drives the UI effects in Moblin, i.e Clutter, is available to the desktop programmer too. I am very much looking forward to what the Gnome gang have planned for it in their upcoming Gnome Shell 3.0. I am hoping that this and other changes to Gnome for the September 3.0 release will be a real game changer for desktop Linux.

Blender 2.5

What the heck is Blender? And why is a C++ hack like you interested in it? Blender is an open source 3D modeling tool. No, not software modeling, but the real 3D object modeling that you use to build games and simulations. I’ve been watching the game development industry mainly because I’m a geek with an insatiable curiosity on how developers build things. Building games is one of the hardest computer science problems around. That and you need great artists to make great games. It’s a very cool mix of art and science. And the artists need tools too.

The Blender community is a rich mix of that and it’s been fun to watch them. The new version of Blender coming out this year is a much needed rearchitecture and a bit of a reinvention of themselves. It looks to be much easier to use and I expect it’ll become quite popular. Mix that with the open source software development tools we’re doing at Eclipse and I see a much lower entry point for people wanting to join in on the fun.

High Performance Computing

HPC is another technology that I see inching towards the masses. The hardware that the graphics card vendors are putting out is reaching dizzying heights of multi-processing. As the tooling for these cards improves, this power will be more and more accessible to the every day programmer and it’ll be very interesting to see what they build with it.

C++0x

I’m not sure whether C++0x will reach standardization this year, but I expect to see more and more of the spec implemented in GCC and other compilers. There are a lot of important new features here for C++ that will greatly improve the productivity of C++ programmers. Will it be enough to fend off the continuing progression of developers to less capable languages? I don’t think so since it’s still a pretty complicated language. But it should make it more appealing for those that need the power of C++.

Open Source Wins

I usually get called the “Open Source Guy” at work by those more focused on business. But I will continue to champion the need for open source software as a key element of any software business strategy. Why? Because software is damn hard to build and going it alone continues to carry a high risk of failure. If there are opportunities to work in a community, to share in that risk, and to spread out the cost so you aren’t covering all of it, how does that not make sense?

At the end of the day, customers care that you give them great solutions, they don’t care how you build it. If you ignore all the great work that’s going on in the communities, you’ll need to keep ahead of that to ensure that they see you as the best provider of those solutions. That doesn’t mean competing with open source, that means embracing it and leveraging it to keep your customers happy at a reasonable cost.

Over the years, we’ve seen companies that have slowly embraced this strategy. Some have a ways to go before they totally get it. Notice that none of the technologies I see as industry changing are coming from Microsoft. But they are keeping a close eye on what’s happening in the communities and the little test balloons they’ve sent over the last year will continue. And I take that as a sign we are right.

Well, that’s all for now and thanks for sticking with me to the end. 2010 is going to be a great year for software development. We seem to have broken free from the shackles of the doldrums we’ve been in since Windows took over our world. It’ll be very interesting to see where we end up at the end of the year, but it promises to be one hell of a ride.