* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

We're closed, folks!


» Business of Software FAQ
» The Business of Software Conference (held every fall, usually in Boston)
» Forum guidelines (Please read before posting!)


Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Software development in the year 2009

At the risk of being flamed, ridiculed, and otherwise spit on, I am going to try and predict the future of software development.

Here 9 predictions about how application development will look in the Year 2009. Please give me your opinions on my opinions :) and throw in any extra opinions of your own.

1) Linux is running on 30% of consumer and business desktop and laptop machines. In 2004, the penetrations was only 3%, but this rapidly escalated because Linux is free and former 3rd world countries like China and India are growing more rapidly than the West. They have a bias for free software because there labor costs are so low that even in the TCO in the US is higher for Linux than Windows in the US, the economics are reversed in India and China. Most software companies release software for both Linux and Windows.

2) Software engineers in India are still cheaper than in the US, but not as cheap as in countries in Africa and China. India is forced to start paying attention to reducing costs of software development through software development tools.

3) Businesses have a bias for solutions that are based on Open Source software. Many consulting companies (IBM is largest) make money by cobbling together Open Source components into real world business solutions. Some small consulting companies have small pieces of proprietary software that glue together Open Source component in a way that gives them an advantage in their vertical market.

4) Microsoft is shrinking. The market for its Office and OS products is competing with OpenOffice and Linux. It is hard to compete with free, but Microsoft continually reduces prices internationally and tries to add new features that are ahead of Open Source solutions. It is slowly failing as it tries to penetrate new “safe markets” like consumer electronics, pet robots, and cell phones with built in “quiet-mode” hair dryers that can dry your hair while your are talking with your friend. Microsoft is contemplating porting Office to Linux and seeding their OS to Open Source.

5) Most companies have switched to Open Source databases. Oracle is still used in the highest end of the market, but that market is being gradually eroded. Microsoft has ported MS SQL Server to Linux in an effort to retain any market share.

6) Developers are using Open Source software development tools wherever possible. Eclipse has become the dominant tool for developers. Microsoft has drastically reduced the price of their software development tools so that it can try and hold on to existing customers.

7) Many new Open Source code only companies have sprung up. Vulcan makes and excellent business rules engine that is the basis for most logical business work flow. They make all there money by selling consulting and canned business rules scripts. Klingon is a security company that has used Open Source code to replace Norton Anti-virus and runs on both Linux and Windows. They make all their money by providing anti-virus subscription updates.

8) The number of software developers in the US has shrunk by 50% since 2004. The most innovative and productive teams are in the US but other countries (India and China) are catching up.

9) Software developers are specializing in more narrowly defined areas because the rate of technological change and divergence is greater than the human capacity to absorb new information. For instance, Spock used to program web applications that involved Web design, workflow, and database access. (Ahh..those were the good old days.) Now Spock specializes in modifying Vulcan rule engine scripts. Even then, he doesn’t really know every feature, but can do most of what he needs with 20% of the engine features. He hopes this knowledge will allow him to live long and prosper.
Roger Jack Send private email
Thursday, September 16, 2004
I don't know. I bet it won't change much. Not saying anything bad about Linux but I don't see how Miguel can get the entire Linux programming camp to bring 95% of all software development under the Mono flag. This is not all, but it's one of the things that's absolutely critical to enabling 30% penetration. You can easily compile the same Windows Java program on Mac OS X today, and they don't have 30% penetration. Right? So I don't think getting everyone on the Mono bandwagon is enough.

Other factors that will make a big difference is continual enhancement to ease of use. There are still too few programmers in the Linux camp dedicated to making 95% of the tasks everyone and their grand mother must do absolutely flawless. When I install Linux, a daring goal would be to present exactly 50 files to me when I look on the file system. Is this out of the question? With file systems like BeOS and the maturity of PostgreSQL this is EASY. Making the resort fun for the shark hunters as well as the casual snow birds--that's Linux's biggest challenge in its great sea of features.

Third point, Linux is awesome, but someone needs to want to make a ton of money with it. If some how that goal coincides with maximizing the deployment of Linux--30% penetration will actually happen if people are hungry enough. I see a lot of hungry people. So it IS possible.

Good prediction though, for what its worth.
Li-fan Chen Send private email
Thursday, September 16, 2004
In 2009 there will be a big market for embedded software used in flyng cars.
muppet 3.11 pro gold Send private email
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Your vision of the future seems reasonably realistic, but I think 2009 is too soon.  That's only 5 years away.  I don't think the dramatic changes in market share for Linux, Microsoft, Oracle, etc... will happen in that short a time.  After all, that's only two windows versions away.  This is equivalent to the changes in market share between NT 4 and XP.... This may be more like a 15 year outlook than 5.
Friday, September 17, 2004
Yeah, just five years to way too short a timespan.

Think about that big pile of cash Microsoft has (even with their recent plans to issue a dividend). If things turn bad for them, they can use that cash to change things in their favour.

I am also not convinced that businesses will so conveniently embrace the OS products and ditch their tried and tested (although relatively expensive) systems and vendors.

I might be wrong, but I reckon that a lot of the real decision-makers in business are very conservative and are not phased or impressed by whatever happens to be the latest trend in IT.

There may be plenty of techie-evangalists for the brave new world of OS, and even some impressive sounding early-adopters, but I suspect we're still in the beginning of the "Crossing the Chasm" bell curve, not the main-stream.

I think a lot of people make the mistake of assuming that just because OpenOffice is cheap, everyone will abandon their Office licenses and use that instead. This will never happen quickly on a large scale, and the same applies to Linux on the desktop.

Just because the upfront cost is zero, and even if the product is as good as the entrenched "standard", it doesn't mean any sane business leader would go with it. There are other costs, such as training, support, document conversion, interop with other businesses, customers, etc. Also, anyone buying MS Office can be reasonably sure that MS will be around in a couple of years. While these concerns don't make total sense to a techie, I believe they do for a conservative business leader.

Back to the original question (after an aside), I think by 2009 we'll all have just finished installing the new shrink-wrap of Longhorn and wondering what all the fuss was about ;-)
Friday, September 17, 2004
Your predictions seem to be very Open Source biased.

Remember the predictions for Linux in 1998? Some clever people extrapolated the then recent growth of Linux to predict that by now it would have more than 100% of the OS market :-)

I work with OS components every day in the enterprise market and the common complaints with OS are:
* "there is no documenation"
* "this documentation is three versions old"
* "this documentation makes little sense"
* "in the new version they changed the foobar function in XYZZY library to return a boolean instead of an int so if we upgrade our software crashes"

These things will need to change mighty quick for your predictions to come true, and frankly, without a profit motivation I don't think it's going to happen.
Herr Herr Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
These are my predictions

* The world will of IT will be split into 2 areas: The Open Source and the Consumer.

* The vast majority of users will be in the Consumer world.   

* Computers in themselves will not be present in the home.  Homes will have a combined network that provides entertainment and other commercial services.  Within the home there will be mainly thin clients, although these thin clients will still be higher speed than today’s high end PCs.

* These consumer hardware will follow a model similar to Games Consoles.  Only certified software will be allowed to run on them and Digital Rights Management will be built in.

* The consumer will be extremely cheap and modular.  The central unit will be free or close to free.  Other modules will be provided free or close to free for subscription services.  Like central heating and double glazing a wireless network will have become a standard fitting within the home. 

* All entertainment will be provided through a multimedia system.  Almost all available Radio frequency bandwidth will be used for wireless networks.  Terrestrial TV as we know it will be gone to make room for more efficient technologies.  There will be upheaval in the media industries as the traditional style of Television become obsolete and new formats are found.  Mainstream entertainment will have gone and almost everything will be 'cult' by today’s standards.

* Speech recognition will be the principle means of control for the consumer hardware.  Never one to admit defeat, Microsoft will have resurrected BOB as an interactive artificial intelligence interface.

* Professional Software tools will use immersive interfaces similar to the virtual reality stuff of the 90s only much cooler.

* Computing programming in itself will be rare, similar to the few who now write compilers, frameworks and libraries for developers.  There will be a fragmentation in the development market as domain specific tools for creating applications dominate various niches.  Most applications will be put together by domain experts rather than written by programmers.

* With the barriers to entry increased the skilled computer programmers will be able to demand very high wages.

* As software become establish and dull less and less bright young things will be attracted to the area.  Few will understand how programming could be seen as a hobby or a political statement.  The Open Source world will become the domain of aging hobbyists who will be producing software of an extremely high quality.  Having become an accepted part of the establishment it will eventually die off from lack of support.

* The vast majority of people will obtain their equipment indirectly and obtaining it will tie them in to a particular service provider and subscription model.  With computers become hobbyist tools the economies of scale currently enjoyed will be lost and free as in speech hardware will become more expensive.  There will be a flourishing sub-culture of young hackers who will unlock commercial hardware, but the various commercial companies concerned will work hard to keep this out of the mainstream.

* Many commercially important open source projects will become ‘privatised’.  Complex legalities will be involved and some individuals will be made very rich in the process.
Ged Byrne Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
Seems I found some predictions for Macinotsh... :-)
The Future of Macintosh

In August 2006 Microsoft is faced with a choice: write for the Mac or die. Macs are now 90% of the world's home computers, with PCs being put to more appropriate uses such as bird feeders, doorstops, and even to Apple for a unique recycling program that breaks down PCs to their basic materials (plastic, metal, etc.) and reconstitutes them as Macs. Bill Gates, who is beginning to look like Hitler in 1945 (a besieged dictator praying for a miracle to resurrect his trashed empire), still has too big an ego to submit to the superiority of Mac and refuses to go to the programs that will save his company. As a result, Microsoft files for bankruptcy and has all their assets bought by Apple, who turns Microsoft's old headquarters into a big museum where startled schoolkids can experience what their parents had to go through with Windoze PCs.

What happened? Well, first off, once everybody was connected to the internet, they suddenly discovered that there didn't HAVE to be a single standard for the world's computers. Free from the lies of Microsoft, everybody tried out different OS's until they all agreed that Mac had been best all along. After the masses came to that realization, they all dumped PCs for Macs with amazing speed. One drawback to this was in Silicon Valley, where the Cupertino city council suddenly had to figure out where the city ended and Apple began. They still hadn't figured it out by the time of Microsoft's bankruptcy.
Dennis Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
Dennis Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
i agree with a lot from the original post, but 2009 is too soon. And i'm not sure if MS Office is going away.

I do think that a lot of software will be based on Open Source, which is a good thing.
Patrick Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
My prediction:  Because of lack of continued corporate support, Open Source will have to find a profitable business model in order to support on-going operations.  The new Open Source business model will include charging for licenses of the software.  Additionally, people will begin to realize that "you get what you pay for."  Open Source will no longer be synonymous with free software
Friday, September 17, 2004
With oil trading at $500 a barrel, no more countries to swipe new supplies from, and dwindling coal supplies being used to power a few elite estates in suburban Austin Texas, computers become useful only as something to club your friends and family with so you can steal their food.
Just One Canadian Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
I disagree, because I do not believe that the stated trends will continue at the same rate.  There are many factors that can slow down a trend.  Would you extrapolate sales of a computer game in its first month as an indicator of its sales over the next three years?

The IT field changes too much -- and innovates too rapidly -- for any predictions based on the current situation to be useful.  Something else will come along to change everything, just like open source and outsourcing did.
Brent P. Newhall Send private email
Friday, September 17, 2004
And here's my prediction - the open source crowd will be breathlessly predicting that open source is about to take over the desktop, since, in 2009, it already has the massive share of 3 percent of the market.

What is going to happen is this - next generations of Microsoft products will have things Linux doesn't, but people really want.
Uncle Bill, maybe
Saturday, September 18, 2004
I bet they were predicting five years ago that there would be no more retail stores and 99.3% of all retail commerce would be done over the web.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Folks, the “desktop” is going away.  That's pretty much of an end for MS.

I myself don't care too much about what's the operating system of 2009; any OS will do, so long as it can browse the Web--and then why Windows and not a free one?  Will 95% of the World keep paying for something that they only use to browse the Web?  I don't think so..

So my (I guess more realistic) prediction is that Linux should get to have over 50% by 2009.

And MS.Office will probably have to face this situation: be able to produce something that can be read by people not using MS.Office, or die.  I don't use it myself and I personally think that all parts of it are worthless except Excel (and even this one could start to use some XML format by now for storing data).
Mihai Send private email
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Some interesting ideas out there.  I found Ged's most compelling: the world will be split between open and closed.  Ever read the book "The Peace Wars"?  Similar scenario which is a long term extrapolation from Ged's notes.  But I think Ged is correct.

PC lock down in many offices. Nothing extraordinary, it will seem normal.

In the home markets, its the end of the generic OS as we know it.  Well, not in 5 years, probably longer.  Everything is devices, with signed everything.  The only people running generic OS are folks like us.

We can only pray that Africa will be a pool of out sourcing. That would mean the civil wars are not the dominant force on that continent.
hoser Send private email
Sunday, September 19, 2004
"Folks, the “desktop” is going away.  That's pretty much of an end for MS."


Tell me, how many word processors do you see running across the internet? How many CAD/CAM packages? How many spreadsheets? How many of the actual things that people use computers for in their day to day work are actually on the internet?

How likely do you think it is that this will change in the next five years?
Mr Jack
Monday, September 20, 2004
Nice predictions, but, I think the open source avocates forget why all this stuff happened in the first place.

You see, way back when some guy by the name of Bricklin wrote a program that could make accountants start jumping up and down like ferrets on sugar. So they started buying these ugly plastic boxes with names like Apple 2E, Morrow and Osborne because they could do stuff that they always wanted to.

The point I'm trying to make here is that "killer-app" software is 1) what drive the whole thing, 2) written by one or a few people who want to make money and change the world. Open Source is fine, but you cannot make money with it.

IMO, at least. Flame shield is no ON!
Bob Walsh Send private email
Monday, September 20, 2004
I live in Russia, where we have practically the worst internet in the world(lots of dialuppers and several big providers with practically no service), cheap hardware, huge pirated software market and lots of programmers. So, when you buy Windows for 3$, surf Inet on 33.6 modem and overclock your processor, you see all that Information Highway ideas only as far future.
So, we will never change our PCs to Macs - they are too expensive. We will never change Windows and Word to Linux and StarOffice. And when all the world does so - we will still develop the PC.(Hey! Does anyone remember ZX Spectrum? And do you know what we've done to it in Russia? See these: http://www.spectrum128.spb.ru http://www.pentagon1024.narod.ru http://www.atmturbo.narod.ru http://www.petersplus.ru/sprinter/ - although this sites are in Russian, you can use any translation program and see the 'old' computer alive and still kicking)
Top secret Send private email
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
And, of course, forget the free software. When you buy everything for 3$, you don't care it's commercial
Top secret Send private email
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
My own prediction is that the decisive factor in converting from MS software into Free Software such as Linux is vulnerability to viruses, worms, spyware and their ilk.

The big stampede will start when the following happen:
1. There are some games, which exist only for Linux.  So people with home networks will install Linux on one PC to play those games.
2. Those people then realize that when they work on the Linux based PC, they realize higher productivity than when working on their regular MS-Windows based PC.

So, once people convert their home networks into Linux, they will start pushing for Linux also in their workplaces.

Could be as short as half a year from now.  Depends upon the time needed to develop a game, which depends upon features, which exist only in Linux, and so cannot be ported to MS-Windows.
TDDPirate Send private email
Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Really, Linux nas nothing like DirectX and will never have a well-documented API (like WinAPI). So, gamedeveloping for Linux is a lot harder and does not give you so much money.
Top secret Send private email
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
I think by 2009 we will see about 10% desktop share consumed by linux/bsd/mac, and that's probably where it'll stop.  The reality is that most people don't really have a compelling reason to switch.  Mac's are elitist and expensive, linux lacks a lot of software and if you're not an experienced user it gives you way too much power (you can so easily destroy a linux installation or do something annoying like delete your mouse driver!).. That's not really the important thing though.

I found Joel's article on what the web is doing to Microsoft and the windows API incredibly insightful.  What IS important is that the vast majority of the new 'killer' applications are web applications.  Web browsers, Google, Yahoo/hotmail, IM's, ipod/itunes (online music will be much much bigger than it is already) are all tools that have landed on everyone's computer, regardless of what OS you use.  I think this trend will continue.  By 2009 we will see wide spread use of powerful online accounting web sites, voice over IP, advanced life style management web services, lots of ASP (application service provider) businesses providing web services, etc. 

It's not going to be about windows or linux.  It's ALL about communication with the world at large and making computing even more seemlessly integrated with ourselves.  How about Microsoft's patent on sending data through human tissue? How about computers embedded in the fabric of our clothes? This is the way of the future.

Andy Chapman.

Friday, September 24, 2004
Well, my opinion is that all such prognoses are true for US and Western Europe - "the golden 1 000 000 000". And the countries of the "third world" (like India, China, Pakistan and maybe Russia) are going to become just a place which gives cheap workers (I mean junior programmers, if we speak about software development) and cheap peripherials (see it in any PC store: all is assembled in China and Malaysia).

Now about the market share of windows/linux/mac. While Gates is the richest man on Earth, he will not let anyone to win a market share over 25%. I think they will be divided in such a way : linux - about 15% or more, mac - about 5%, all others(QNX, *BSD, commercial Unixes) - less than 5%.

Then, about web applications. They seem to become the biggest profitable - just imagine how much a site can get on showing banners! But - it's true for developed countries with widespread Internet. Here, in Russia, the biggest local searching engine http://www.yandex.ru just sterted to make profit, while it exists 5 years! Another sites don't make any profit, and exist with support of big ISPs.

IMHO, nothing can change the role of programmers. There will still exist C/C++ coders, who'll be thought as the most experienced. And the others will use something like C#, Java and other interpretable languages.

PS I recently saw HiAsm - a tool which allowed you to "write" programs just drag-and-dropping elements to somethig like a form. I can't say it's a programming language, but this totally visual technology really frightens me. What will we get tomorrow? We are losing good low-level coders. Just a couple of years - and you will forget about linux development - everyone will learn not C, but some C#++, which will be the greatest achievement of M$ - a language, totally optimised for Windows, where you'll deal with forms and buttons instead of all the hard work. Modern technologies are becoming harder to learn. In 1994, you could easily write in pure Assembler and get good code. Now, in 2004, no-one will learn C or Assembler with such easy tools around. And Windows is becoming the only OS we use. Isn't that like the Hitler Germany or Stalin's USSR - the total power, but now it will belong to Bill Gates.

PPS Sorry for my shitty English
Top secret Send private email
Saturday, September 25, 2004

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
Powered by FogBugz