The author William Gibson is often credited with inventing the concept of cyberspace in his near-future science fiction novels, beginning with "Neuromancer" in 1984. But while Gibson's imagined world has been hailed as remarkably prescient of the Internet Age, Gibson himself points out that he missed at least one important prediction: None of his characters had cell phones. Can't win 'em all, I guess.
Undaunted -- or maybe just too dumb to give up -- we tech pundits keep forging on with our own visions of the future. Although we seldom peer more than a year ahead, getting even that right is difficult enough. That's why I always like to look back at my New Year's predictions from 12 months ago to score my successes and failures. If nothing else, it keeps me honest. Read on to see how well I foresaw the software development milestones of 2010.
Another year in the browser wars
My first prediction for Web developers was that Google Chrome would be a big winner in 2010. That turned out to be true, though perhaps only in a relative sense. Chrome did become fully cross-platform, as I expected; the Mac and Linux versions left beta in May and the various platforms have had version parity ever since. But although every major survey shows Chrome's user base at least doubling over the course of the year, that still leaves it with just 10 to 15 percent market share overall.
Nonetheless, Google's browser did much better than the competition. I assumed, wrongly, that users who hadn't quit Internet Explorer by Dec. 2009 would stick to their guns. In reality, both IE and Firefox saw their shares decline, while other browsers remained mostly flat throughout 2010. Only Apple's Safari could possibly claim a modest gain by some statistics, though nothing to compare with Chrome. Doubtless the mounting HTML5 hype had a lot to do with these trends.
I said increased competition would put extra pressure on Microsoft in the browser wars, though, and here I was right again. I expected Microsoft to release a technology preview of Internet Explorer 9 in 2010, but the Redmond-based giant did me one better, pushing the new browser into formal beta in September and making steady progress ever since. Still, as I predicted, we won't see the final release until early 2011.
While I was mostly right about Chrome and IE, my predictions for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 proved less sound. InfoWorld's test run of the platform proved largely favorable, but I didn't hear as much buzz about it from developers as I expected in 2010. Perhaps that will change as companies' upgrade cycles catch up with Microsoft's product road map.
No clear winners in the mobile arena
I thought my major prediction for the mobile development market was a no-brainer. Instead, another year has come and gone and you still can buy an iPhone only on AT&T's network in the United States, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.
I was skeptical about Android, however, and here I think I was right to trust my gut. There are certainly plenty of Android handsets on the market now. Believe it or not, even I've taken the plunge: There's an Android 2.1 phone in my pocket right now. But the more I rely on Google's smartphone OS, the more I find reasons to miss the tight integration and consistent UI of my old BlackBerry. Even after three major OS updates in 2010, Android phones still can't match the iPhone for user experience.
On the developer side, app vendors are still grumbling about the deficiencies of the Android Market. Even worse, what I never could have predicted was Oracle's lawsuit against Google, which added even more uncertainty to the Android phone market in 2010.