Software development predictions for 2011

Developers struggle to cope with a Java market dominated by Oracle, smartphone platforms duke it out, and the specter of legislation looms

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Research in Motion's position is more precarious, however. And while, unlike Google, RIM licenses Java for its BlackBerry handsets, it can't afford to get kicked around by Oracle while Android and Apple erode its market share. Expect RIM to finally get off the fence in 2011 and announce plans to extend the next-generation QNX OS it aquired for its PlayBook tablet to all of its future handsets, leaving the BlackBerry platform's Java ME roots in the dust.

One mobile platform that should make a lot of noise in 2011 -- but won't -- is Palm WebOS. Expect Hewlett-Packard to release one or two new WebOS devices by midyear, but they'll be tablets, not smartphones. Meanwhile, sales of the Palm Pre 2 will be just as lackluster as those of its predecessor, leaving analysts to wonder why HP isn't marketing the platform more aggressively.

The reason? In a word, Microsoft. As Windows Phone 7 sales continue to disappoint, Redmond will panic. I predict Microsoft will kick off a new "surge" of publicity around the platform by late spring, dragging its handset manufacturer partners along for the ride -- HP among them. That's why you'll see new HP-branded Windows Phone 7 handsets on the shelves while WebOS gathers dust, in a move that will prove to be yet another mobile-market blunder for both Microsoft and HP.

New rules, new headaches
Legal issues will impact developers as much as technology in 2011, and foremost among these will be Net neutrality, for both wired and wireless networks. Smartphone developers will be affected most, as mobile carriers continue to revise their data plans with bandwidth caps and increased fees for overages. But given the apparent reluctance of Congress and the Obama administration to legislate in favor of Net neutrality (new rules adopted Tuesday are an unsatisying compromise), developers of desktop and server applications have much to consider also.

The issue facing developers today -- having witnessed the rise of Web 2.0 and AJAX, then SaaS, and now cloud computing -- is how we can continue to innovate in the software market when network providers seem hell-bent on limiting access to the bandwidth that makes modern application architectures possible. This issue will bounce back and forth between the FCC and the courts throughout 2011, but don't expect any answers from Congress. A hamstrung, deeply partisan Congress won't be able to act on this issue any more than it will be able fix the federal budget deficit.

One area where I do expect some action, however, is in online privacy enforcement. The ongoing WikiLeaks debacle has planted the seed in Congress's head that it's a bad idea to let information float around the Internet. That, combined with regular reports of data leaks and privacy violations from the likes of Facebook, will spur legislators to craft new laws regulating how information can be shared online. Unfortunately, I expect this to be a minor disaster, resulting in vague and burdensome compliance procedures for software developers and maintainers that put Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA to shame.

Pessimistic? Perhaps -- but the only way to find out how right or wrong I am will be to keep following the software development market as events unfold in the New Year. Have a happy one, everybody, and I'll see you back here in 2011!

This article, "Software development predictions for 2011," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in programming at InfoWorld.com.

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