A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.
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Doug Nebeker ("Doug")
Ah, New Year. What better time of the year to muse on the current and future state of the software industry?
Some facts of 2014:
- Windows 8 hasn't taken off (well, that was rather predictable). After reintroducing the desktop in Windows 8.1 the market share has increased, though (4% Win8 and 11% Win8.1).
- Microsoft announces Windows 10 (because counting is hard) to be released in 2015. It will bring back the traditional desktop.
- The tablet market seems to have slowed down - it looks like this market has saturated.
- Tablet sales: Android leads with around 68%. Predictions by analysts look at no more 2-3% growth per year for Android.
- Apples iPads lose market share to Android.
- Windows Tablets increase their market share to a whooping 5% (predicted 11% in 2018).
- Desktop PC sales continue to drop slightly, probably at the expense of notebooks, subnotebooks, hybrid devices etc. This probably also includes people realizing that they don't need a PC in the first place, since any mobile phone/tablet does all they need: browsing, facebook, skype, e-mail, netflix, whatever. They don't need it for actually doing work.
As I see it, desktop software is here to stay, however with a twist that it should be able to run smoothly on touch enabled hybrid devices. Apparently the term for desktop programs is now legacy applications... makes you wonder.
Would you care to share your thoughts about the future of software?
Tablets lost the battle with phones, their screen size advantage wasn't enough to phone's "always on, always available" feature. Besides that neither phone developers or desktop developers created killer applications for tablets. So basically a tablet is a super sized phone that runs the same applications, with a bit more screen real state. Phones also grew bigger, bridging the gap between phones and tablets (6" phlabets).
Screen is the problem looking for a solution. Be it the TV, a monitor, a foldable screen or a retinal projector, the first to bring major usage will drive software evolution.
This is an input/ouput dispute. We started with keyboards and monitors. Then graphical displays with mouse. Then portable content (Web) with mouse and fingers. The fastest, always available, low cost and more comfortable way to receive input and output will win in the long run.
Friday, January 02, 2015
I am in Mexico. 10 years ago hardly anybody had a PC, the old "dumb" cell phones were kept out of sight in case they were targets for theft. Nowadays there are smartphones everywhere and most people in the cities have desktop PCs/Macs.
I think the future of the software industry is really bright, as more people in Latin America (and Asia and Africa) get access to computers/internet and become consumers of software. The size of the pie is growing rapidly and there will be plenty of pieces for mISVs to choose from!
I agree "phablets" (phone size tablets or tablet size phones) are the way of the future.
It's pointless to carry a tablet around when you already have a 5 inch phone in your pocket that can zoom in. but if you're not carrying the tablet then what use is it?
My wife uses one in the house, for reading and surfing - but she puts it next to her laptop she uses for work. Likewise I have a Note 2 that covers 90% of my connectivity issues, but I wouldn't dream of doing work on it, or any tablet either. For work it's a full-size PC or the biggest laptop I can find (why is it so hard to find a 17" laptop now?)
Another thing against tablets is that it becomes darn expensive to have 2 SIM cards and 2 phone accounts. Yet a tablet without a SIM and internet connection is even more useless.
I really do think the only reason tablets became popular was because the iPhone was too small, then the iPad became trendy. The trendiness of a tablet is wearing off for casual users.
Where tablets DO shine is when they are primarily used for a single purpose, such as a waiter replacing pen and paper. With a good interface it's much easier to tap on menu items than to write them down, and the thing can calculate the bill at the same time, calculate tax, even say how long it's likely to take to cook etc.
An iPad replacing a paper pad opens up all sorts of possibilities, yet most "apps" seem juvenile at best?
The low cost of Android tablets now suggest opportunities for bespoke solutions in professional environments, with tablets supplied?
Going further, once you have your branded tablets inside an organization, think of the add-ons and further opportunities that could open up? Get your foot in the door via stock control or something, then offer internal messaging, calendar alerts, vacation-booking or other HR facilities..?
Magic notepads basically, rather than trying to compete with actual phones or actual computers, which will always be better at being a phone or being a computer.
My musings, anyway.
Friday, January 02, 2015
One the on hand, more and more people and businesses are using more and more software. On the other hand people's expectations for the price of software and going down and down, to the point where some people consider $1.99 'premium'. I'm not sure which of these trends is going to be more dominant.
BTW I see phones and tablets as ok for playing games and consuming. But hopeless for anything creative. My ailing 48 year old eyes don't even cope with a 13" laptop very well. Give me a desktop PC/Mac with a big display any day.
Saturday, January 03, 2015
I think approaching this from the point of view of large trends (desktop looses, tablets get stagnant, mobile continue to rise) is not good for small software business people (like myself and I assume most visitors here).
That line of thinking leads to "mobile rises therefore I shall make mobile software" thinking, which is bad because e.g. writing mobile software is a extremely tough business (due to competition and the culture of free or very cheap software).
While I think you need to take those trends into consideration, the most important thing is to focus on business idea, product/market fit and then choose the right technology for the idea, not the other way around.
For example, right now I'm working on a web-based note-taking application.
Note taking is the activity that I'm trying to improve. This activity has existed for a long time.
10 years ago I would most surely do it as a desktop software, because the web wasn't good enough.
Today web is good enough and in many (but not all) ways this idea is better implement on the web.
The problem I'm trying to address hasn't changed, but my choice of technology did.
That being said, there are problems that are still better solved as a desktop software and there are problems better solved as mobile or table software.
Saturday, January 03, 2015
I'd say mobile is obviously going to dominate more and more. I'm hopeful that it'll be open (HTML5, CSS3, JS, etc), rather than Balkanised into platform-specific applications/app-stores.
It is also clear that "end-user computing", "citizen coders", "build your own app", etc is a trend that isn't going away. This is something I've been involved with for various clients for over ten years. These have been private, internal projects, so nobody knows much about them, but the ideas are starting to become more mainstream now, with several interesting startups working in this space.
As an aside, I do find all these government-backed "year of code", "teach yourself coding", "teach kids to code", etc initiatives mildly amusing. Sadly, it seems people think that getting a job as a programmer just requires knowing how to code, whereas most readers here will know that isn't the case any more.
It is true that anyone who knew how to use a keyboard could get a well-paid job as a contract developer back in '99, during the height of the Y2K, dot com and telecoms booms, but those days are long gone and unlikely to return. End of aside.
He's a thought, maybe one you can exploit: Devices (and software) don't unify.
Only a few years ago people were talking how TV, video games, media, and PC would merge into one family home entertainment/communication device.
Now a typical Western family has multiple PCs, numerous TV, multiple consoles, multiple tablets, multiple smart phones, etc.
The only people who want want general purpose tool that does a half-arsed job at everything are people who either can't afford or aren't offered better specialist tools.
Of course, this is not to say every tiny platform is viable, nor that when X splits into Y1 and Y2 that Y1+Y2 is a larger market than X. But fragment happens, exploit it, deal with.
If you're expecting things to unify - you're Microsoft Windows 8 - at best, a wannabee all-rounder who is basically rubbish at everything.
Monday, January 12, 2015
I do think the trends in using tablets for business will continue to grow. What has changed now is tablets can be had for rather cheap.
A recent medical billing system I was looking at is REALLY nice. You can use a tablet in the exam room, and the customer can even sign on the iPad with their finger.
However, the workflow of the system is VERY well done. At the end of the day, you sit down at a regular PC desktop, review and exams and add comments etc. And then you fire out this to the provider who manages all the insurance claims etc.
So all of these “new” trends simply are opportunities that allow one to enhance and improve software applications. The key concept is you can use new technologies such as a tablet, but WHEN combined with traditional desktop software, such devices simply augment and improve typical business software systems. In other words, don’t try and do everything on the tablet (or everything on the desktop!).
Another area I seem great progress is desktop scanners and converting incoming paper to PDF documents. You can now go paperless in a very affordable way. A number of my projects involve scanning and THEN categorizing incoming paper. Once you categorized such documents, then all business software systems through the company can grab their grubby hands on those documents. So along the way from regulatory requirements, to ensuing all approved documents are available before billing and accounting department sends out an invoice can now be managed.
Thus the advent of good fast paper scanners and HUGE amounts of disk space for near nothing has made such paperless systems affordable for any small business.
The result is when accounting people are on the phone, then they can “bring up” work orders and signed documents, and do so electronically – and often from the Accounting package they are using.
And I rather love the trend in touch notebooks etc. – they are far better and faster then using a mouse. You just type and your fingers can swat the screen like pecking at a fly – much much faster then grabbing a mouse.
Albert D. Kallal (Access MVP)
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
One thing I like to remember is that these mobile devices serve an entirely different purpose than what desktop devices serve. Mobile devices are best used for mobile activities (the act of moving around).
Since we all have computer tasks that don't require walking, driving, flying, or performing back flips through hoops of fire, desktop programs will always serve a purpose.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
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