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12 predictions for the future of programming

Peter Wayner | Feb. 4, 2014
If hitting a target is hard and hitting a moving target is even harder, then creating a new hit technology is next to impossible because the shape and nature of the target morphs as it moves. Think of building a swish new laptop just as laptops are heading out of favor, or a must-have mobile app just as smartphones plateau, or a dynamite tablet experience just as the wearable future takes hold.

The mainframe will have Cobol. Biologists will probably stick with Python. Linux will be written in C. But almost everything else is fair game as JavaScript gobbles the world.

Future of programming prediction No. 4: Android on every device

When the browser doesn't win, Android is close behind. Camera designers, threatened by cellphones with good lenses, started putting Android on cameras, so now you can run Instagram on a Nikon. Does that make Nikon a computer company now? Does it even matter?

There are Android refrigerators, car stereos, watches, televisions, even headphones. Some complain that the UI is too complicated because it can do too much, but that's missing the point. The UI layer can always be simplified. If Android is running underneath, the platform will dominate.

It's going to get even more complicated. PC manufacturers are looking at the burgeoning tablet world and feeling left out. Their solution is to run Android on Windows and let people use their Android apps on their desktops, too. Some just run the stock Android emulators used by programmers, but others are looking beyond that to create brands like "PC Plus." Once Android takes over the PC, it may combine with the browser to push Windows native apps into a distant third place for mindshare on the box.

Future of programming prediction No. 5: The Internet of things — more platforms than ever

One side effect of Android (and Linux) colonizing the world is that more and more objects will be joining the Internet of things. Android on your refrigerator will mean the opportunity to write code for the refrigerator itself, whether it's an app for displaying kid art, some calorie-counting scold, or a recipe suggestion engine for what's left inside the ice box. Who knows?

Of all the many new platforms to come, the most important will be the car. Navigation and shopping are just the beginning. When the autonomous cars roll out, there will be even more opportunities for developers to cash in on car location and information.

The key is to figure out which new features are essential to the new domains. While operating systems like Android offer a unifying core, each platform will require customized features. Robotic toys, for instance, may need content filters to provide age-appropriate content. Thermostats will want to interact with the weather forecast. Building these APIs with the right features will be key to colonizing the Internet of things.

Future of programming prediction No. 6: Open source will find new ways to squeeze us

For all of the success of open source stacks like Android, Ubuntu, or MySQL, there remains a sticky problem with finding the revenue to support development. There are plenty of good stories about how open source code has helped hackers, but there aren't very many examples of how companies built a relatively stable ecology that let the programmers buy health care or food.

 

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