Web standards win, Windows whimpers in 2012

The year ahead promises lots of interesting twists, particularly for Web and mobile developers

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Chrome will dazzle in another way, too. Expect Google to release a much-improved version of its Native Client technology in 2012, along with impressive demo applications. Developers may be skeptical about NaCl, but users who pay attention will like what they see.

Mobile platforms start working together
Mobility will remain a hot area for developers, but increasingly the emphasis will be on finding ways to make cross-platform development efficient and practical. Xamarin will generate some good buzz with its Xamarin Mobile framework, but the one to watch will be Adobe Systems, which I predict will make mobile development its key area of focus for 2012.

Along similar lines, I expect Microsoft to finally bow to pressure and offer an SDK that allows developers to use native code in their Windows Phone apps. Currently, Windows Phone is the only smartphone OS that lacks support for code written in C/C++, making it an unduly difficult target for cross-platform apps and games.

The shakeout of mobile OS platforms that began in 2011 will continue through 2012, and this time the big loser will be Research in Motion. There was a glimmer of hope for RIM when it announced its new, revamped BlackBerry 10 OS, but it has since revealed it doesn't expect to ship any BlackBerry 10 smartphones until late 2012. If that's true, it will prove disastrous. Expect to see RIM start looking for ways to exit the smartphone business in the coming year, including licensing its patented technologies to other OS makers.

Programming languages on trial
In the world of programming languages, I don't foresee any significant changes. Google surprised us with Dart this year, and the company says it plans to ship a final version of Go in early 2012, but I predict neither language will gain much traction. Dart's advantages over JavaScript are significant for very large projects only, and it has little hope of gaining support from other browser makers. As for Go, because it compiles to native binaries, it doesn't really compete with C# or Java, while C and C++ are so entrenched in the systems programming niche that they'll be hard to displace.

Java 7 shipped this year, so we won't see another major release in 2012, but work will continue toward a Java 8 release in 2013. That doesn't mean there won't be drama in the Java camp, though. Testimony will begin in Oracle's litigation against Google over the Android virtual machine implementation, a case of supreme significance to the entire Java community. But don't expect any resolution next year. I predict this case will be as protracted and contentious as the SCO Group's attack on Linux -- so grab some popcorn.

Overall, this will be an interesting year for software developers -- not exactly explosive, perhaps, but more exciting than 2011 in many respects. But then, the spirits could have led me astray this time. To find out, stick with me through 2012. Happy New Year!

This article, "Web standards win, Windows whimpers in 2012," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in programming at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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