Planning a development project? Bring your wallet

Companies are spending ever more of their IT budgets on software development, but are they really making progress or just padding vendors' bottom lines?

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Another growing concern for today's businesses, according to the Forrester report, is mobility. More than half of the companies surveyed planned to build mobile apps or mobile-optimized Web pages to augment their existing online offerings -- in other words, they want to take what they already have on the Web and get it working on smartphones. Yet only 16 percent of companies planned to engage outside development agencies with existing mobile expertise, while 80 percent planned to retrain in-house developers for mobile platforms. Meanwhile, mobile developers are confronted with a dizzying array of options. According to Forrester, "We expect shops to struggle with the idea (and costs) of supporting four or more smartphone operating systems."

Rise of the monocultures
By now the theme should be clear: Much of the investment companies are making in "new projects and initiatives" doesn't represent real progress at all. Instead, it's reinventing the wheel or transitioning existing applications from one platform to another -- and potentially to another and then another.

How do companies cope? They hunker down. For many of its findings, Forrester grouped its developers into those who use Eclipse and those who use Visual Studio. Predictably, Visual Studio developers chose Microsoft products and platforms in far greater numbers than did Eclipse developers. That they used .Net and Windows Forms should be obvious, but they also overwhelmingly chose SQL Server as their database and Windows Azure as their cloud platform. Apparently, for them the efficiencies inherent in a single platform and tools vendor outweigh the dangers of lock-in.

It's easy to scoff at Windows developers' single-mindedness, but Microsoft's model is increasingly becoming the norm. Oracle is exerting ever greater influence over the Java platform, seemingly with the aim of creating a developer monoculture similar to what Microsoft enjoys. No less than the IEEE has launched a standardization effort for cloud computing platforms, arguing that, "without a flexible, common framework for interoperability, innovation could become stifled, leaving [users] with a siloed ecosystem."

After all, that only makes sense. The more tool vendors can hold developers in their respective silos, the more they can gradually raise the costs of their offerings. If you want to see it in action, you need only look at the numbers -- and the trend isn't slowing down, it's increasing.

This article, "Planning a development project? Bring your wallet," 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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