Windows 8

Windows 8: The development wildcard of 2012

Justin James gives his 2012 year-in-review take on Windows 8, HTML5, and more. He also shares his professional and personal updates.

I think 2012 has been rather uneventful in terms of software development trends. For the most part, the trends were continuations of things that were happening in 2011.

Windows 8, developer mindshare, and HTML5

The wildcard in 2012 was the release of Windows 8 and to a lesser extent Windows Server 2012 and Office 2013. I was really curious to see how Microsoft would handle these releases, and I think Microsoft dropped the ball. The real-world Windows 8 users I've spoken with are universally disappointed by the release. (I am not going to address each of the mistakes made around Windows 8, because I think most TechRepublic readers are already aware of them.)

Maybe Windows 9 will be a hit, and perhaps Windows 8 will sell much better than it feels like at the moment. Even if Windows 8 isn't a monster hit like Windows 7, it will still move enough units to justify writing apps for it. Unfortunately, it is not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump to go from a traditional Windows application to a Windows 8 app.

However, when you look at developer mindshare, the result has been stunning. The trend over the last few years had been towards Web apps, but in the TechRepublic polls I ran this year, Windows 8 development is barely moving the interest meter in comparison to HTML5 and related Web technologies. While I think this outlook may be missing the boat that even a sluggish Windows 8 launch represents, I understand and respect it. There is only so much time to learn new technologies, and if it is a choice between the proven winner of HTML5 and the question mark of Windows 8, I can see why HTML5 is grabbing the lion's share of attention from developers.

I think the world is slowly sliding away from Windows desktop applications outside of specialized niches. Unless things change, Windows will achieve a COBOL-like status, where certain applications are so dependent upon it that it will always linger, but "greenfield" applications will likely be done on other systems. And that's fine. Does this mean folks should abandon the Windows ship? Of course not. It means that developers have a lot of options. Five or six years ago, I wrote TechRepublic articles in which I stated that the Web wasn't ready in a number of ways and many readers agreed. I think the situation has changed quite a bit, and the Web is definitely up to snuff. If you hold onto current beliefs indefinitely in this industry, you are on the guaranteed path to obsolescence.

My professional and personal updates

This was a monstrously big year for me. My freelance consulting work had grown to the point where I made the decision to go into consulting full time, specializing in OutSystems' Agile Platform. And not too long after that, one of my clients asked me to join them full time and build and lead a team of developers working with Agile Platform. I have been very busy, especially these last few weeks as we are paying off a large amount of technical debt. At the same time, I am doing exactly what I have wanted to do for a long time professionally. It is not an easy road, and I would not recommend it to many people, but I am finding it rewarding and enjoyable on many levels.

I am continuing my writing with TechRepublic, and I always glad to have the expert help of my editor, Mary Weilage, as well as the rest of the TechRepublic staff. While I have had to significantly dial back my writing duties since landing my current position, I will continue to try my best to share what I've learned in the trenches with you folks each week.

The rest of my "real world life" has been good. My son started kindergarten this year, and he's quickly learning to read and write. My daughter has developed a real personality that seems to take on some of my worst traits and my wife's best traits (I don't quite know how that happened). I am very grateful that throughout the stress of first striking out on my own and then being put in a position of responsibility, my family has supported me.

So... farewell 2012, and hello 2013!

J.Ja

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

12 comments
ParaAdmin
ParaAdmin

I really enjoyed the personal side of this story. As a man with a wife and child of my own, I sometimes wonder it everyone else is a dedicated, never have any time for anything else programming monster and if I am the odd ball.

omg.itlead
omg.itlead

" If you hold onto current beliefs indefinitely in this industry, you are on the guaranteed path to obsolescence." That says it all...

darcyi
darcyi

I've been in this business for going on 30 years and I hear this every year: 'Watch out, if you don't learn technology X or buy software package Y (both of which I happen to be selling), you're going to be obsolete". Whoooo -- I'm so scared. And so are many of the people who I went to school with, who are still coding happily away in languages such as Cobol and RPG. I'm not saything things haven't changed a bit, I'm just saying that threatening obsolescence should become obsolete.

Justin James
Justin James

... it includes things like methodologies and such too. For example, 5, 6 years ago, Agile didn't make sense to me outside of certain teams. The tools and systems we were using just could not handle Agile! Imagine trying to do Agile without things like modern continuous integration servers, automated builds and unit testing, etc. Sure, you could be "Agile" but it really held you back. Today, the tooling has improved to the point where Agile is much more accessible to the average developer/team. So while "Agile doesn't make sense for most folks" was a reasonable statement 5 years ago, it no longer is; Agile is now a path that can be taken if folks choose and it won't be an uphill battle. And that's what I mean by obsolete thinking. It isn't just the tools, it's the techniques. You can use a tool like WinForms well past its time of mainstream dominance, and there's nothing wrong with that. But holding onto current thinking iconoclastically is not beneficial long term. J.Ja

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

I think the main things I discovered about "obsolete tech" are that you have to get over being drawn to the buzz, the hot new thing. At least in the areas I looked, you *must* have other capacities besides knowing how to program. And last, but not nearly least, you cannot expect to get into those areas as an entry-level developer. The expectation is, as has been the case for even the "hot" programming disciplines for the past 10 years, that you've had some experience with the technologies, and the other capacities they'll want you to use on the job. I don't know how you'd break into these positions just out of college. I don't think even an internship would qualify you for them. Perhaps the best route would be something that Justin talked about a while back: Work on an open source project, using those capacities, and show what you can do with them.

SAAsh
SAAsh

There are far too many businesses that depend on "obsolete" tech -- because it STILL WORKS! And the number of businesses still dependent on millions of lines of COBOL and other "old" tech languages pales in comparison to the number of businesses dependent on documents and tools created in Microsoft Office and other Windows applications -- neither of which will disappear before whatever current hot tech platform has been replaced with the latest and greatest. Change can be a good thing and is absolutely necessary. It just never seems to happen as fast as we in tech might hope nor nearly as fast as the pundits and prognosticators predict.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

screwed up in so many ways in so many places.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

...it's likely they'll judge candidates against what they wrote in the ad, since those are their expectations. This is the reason I've said for a while that just responding to ads, or going through headhunters--by itself--doesn't do that much for you, because the hiring criteria that an HR Dept. or headhunting agency uses to hire IT people makes little sense. Sure, use the traditional channels, because you never know. It may pan out, but also try to get in contact with people who work at companies you're interested in, who are technically knowledgeable, and are capable of making a hiring decision, or know someone who is, and get them your resume (or I guess they call them "CVs" now). Try lots of different avenues.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and she said it often happened by mistake. The people writing the ads take ads for other programming languages or IT skills and just change the name of the language / skill set not knowing it's a brand new language / skill just that the client wants someone with it.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

In an SE course I took around 1991 our prof. told us about employers who were looking for Ada programmers in the 1980s with "4 years experience" with it, when the language had only been around for 2 years. He thought it was just as dumb then. I used to find this really frustrating. I came up with a theory several years ago that perhaps the whole thing with "years of experience" is code put out by employers that they're looking for someone that they can assign mid-level or senior duties. Any time I saw an ad looking for "4 years experience," they always talked about the candidate being capable of leading a project. In other words it's got nothing to do with the language. Rather, they're looking for someone who knows the language well enough that they can contribute to design decisions, or lead a software project using it. What they think is, "A senior worker would have X years experience with this language." They can't wrap their head around how a programmer who's had senior-level experience with other languages could spend several months with the new language, and do senior-level work with it. On the other hand, back in the early 2000s, I had a conversation with an employer about this, and he said that there are programmers out there who have spent a lot of time with the beta versions of a new language, and so would have a couple years experience with it before it was RTM. But those people are few and far between, in my estimation, and the number of employers looking for them outnumber them.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

January year X - a new programming language GRUFF comes out that has all the bells and whistles, just been invented by Genius Y after working on it for 6 months. March year X - GRUFF declared the hottest thing and the most in demand language code ever. April year X - IT recruiters world wide have advertisements out for people skilled in working with GRUFF, must have two years experience. -- Don't laugh, it happens in IT so often it's NOT funny.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

old technology and obsolete technology. As long as it still has valid current uses it's not obsolete, despite it's age. Cobol is one example, another is the sail boat - it's one of the oldest technologies still in use, and wheelbarrows are another - old but still valid use for them all. Just because companies like Microsoft like to make unneeded deliberate changes to force people off working IT technology doesn't mean the stuff MS wants pushed aside for their personal profits is obsolete.

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