Near misses and lost opportunities: Application development in 2011

My crystal ball proved mostly accurate, and that wasn't always the best news for developers and the tech industry

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Research in Motion has been struggling to maintain its position in the enterprise smartphone market for some time now. I expected 2011 would see RIM finally take action by announcing a new, unified OS for all of its future handsets and tablets, based on the QNX technology it acquired in 2010. I was right on the money, and after some trademark troubles, we now know the new OS will be called BlackBerry 10. Unfortunately it may be too little, too late, as the first BlackBerry 10 handsets won't ship until late 2012.

As much as Hewlett-Packard should have come out fighting with WebOS, I predicted it wouldn't, and I was right again. HP did both more and less than I expected. It shipped two WebOS smartphones when I expected none, although their sales figures were even shabbier than I predicted the Pre 2's would be. What I didn't expect was for HP to admit its WebOS efforts were a failure so quickly. Just one month after shipping its HP TouchPad tablet, it scrapped its entire WebOS hardware line.

Instead of WebOS, I expected HP to do an about-face and become Microsoft's premier partner for Windows Phone 7. Maybe it could have, had it moved quickly enough. Instead, that role went to Nokia, which had fewer qualms about abandoning its own MeeGo OS than HP had about letting go of WebOS. But although I got Microsoft's hardware partner wrong, I got the result right. So far, Microsoft's best efforts have failed to gain much traction for Windows Phone.

The vice tightened on the Net
Other than Java and the mobile market, the rest of my predictions for 2011 involved the legal climate surrounding the Internet and what it would mean for application developers.

In particular, network bandwidth throttling, data caps, and overage fees were all on my mind, and I predicted we'd see more of these in 2011. Not surprisingly, I was right. Verizon Wireless dropped unlimited data plans for its smartphones in July and Sprint followed suit in October, while AT&T and T-Mobile both began throttling the bandwidth of customers who exceed a preset cap. I predicted the practice would spread to wired broadband users in 2011, and I was right again.

I cautioned not to expect any new rulings from Washington on these matters, nor any new laws related to Internet governance. Predictably, that was the case. What I didn't expect, though, was how close Congress came to acting and how damaging the results might have been. The House passed a measure that would have rolled back FCC Net neutrality regulations instituted in 2010, and the Senate almost did the same. Meanwhile, House Republicans drafted a bill that would have eliminated Net neutrality requirements for future broadband spectrum auctions. While I was right, it was a close call.

Another close call: In July, the House drafted a bill in the name of protecting children from online pornographers, but which the ACLU described as "a direct assault on the privacy of Internet users." I predicted that one, too. Unfortunately, I don't think we've seen the last of this kind of legislation.

All in all, I don't think my track record for my 2011 predictions was too shabby. But what do you think? Did I fail to foresee any major events of 2011 that were relevant to software developers? Let me know (Add a comment), and be sure to come back next week to find out my predictions for 2012.

This article, "Near misses and lost opportunities: Application development in 2011," originally appeared at Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in programming at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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