Software development's winners and losers, 2009 edition

The year that loved smartphones, scripting languages, the cloud, and open source was not always kind to developers

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Winner: HTML and AJAX
There's no need to learn about pointers, data structures, and other ancient ideas because AJAX programming coupled with HTML layouts are some of the most fertile playgrounds for creative minds. The plug-in environment for jQuery is filled with hundreds of neat widgets tossed off in a few days. The jQuery collection and the other fertile AJAX environments like Dojo, YUI, and GWT show that all you need is a database running Web services, a few AJAX calls, and some lines to manipulate the DOM tree.

Loser: Programmers
When Grandpa "installed software," he was the boss of those slivers of silicon the software ran on. He had root. He bought the machine and owned it, both literally and figuratively. This year, everyone bowed before closed platforms. The iPhone won't run software without a digital signature from Apple's supreme command center. Facebook is happy to let you write some clever code that will run in its margins. Amazon's cloud comes with a long agreement that allows the company to terminate you for "no reason." Welcome to the new plantation.

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