Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Future of
Desktop Application Development

There's far too much pessimism about the future of the Windows desktop/laptop software market. Truth is, small independent software vendors (microISVs) have a bright future for designing, programming, and marketing business applications for the Windows desktop/laptop market. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you're planning your future software development projects.

The economy will help microISVs

The worldwide economy continues to recover. And with this recovery will come more opportunities for small software development companies.

Forrester Research recently predicted that global IT spending will go up in 2015 by 8.1 percent. They say that software is the leading spending component in IT spending.

As the economy expands, more companies will hire knowledge workers. And these employees will need desktop and laptop computers to do their work. Increased hardware sales will drive more software sales. And that's a formula for success for microISVs.

Will knowledge workers use smartphones and tablets at work instead of desktop and laptop computers? Some will. Most companies, however, cannot decrease their employees' productivity by giving them tiny screens and toy, on-screen keyboards.

As the economy grows, more and more companies will be hiring system designers and programmers to develop in-house systems. As more programmers are hired by larger companies, fewer competitors will be available to create the one-person startups that are the basis of the microISV economy. With fewer competitors, microISV income will rise.

The mobile market and microISVs

Lots of software developers have started developing apps for the smartphone and tablet markets. Programmers are grimacing and using the primitive app development tools that simply don't measure up to the development platforms available in the Windows desktop/laptop world. These same developers are trying to ignore the depressed, depressing retail prices that they'll get for their apps in the iOS and Android marketplaces.

As more microISVs turn their backs on the Windows marketplace and move to mobile development, the microISVs who continue to develop Windows applications will find fewer competitors. And that means more income for the successful developers who stay in the Windows world.

Cloud computing and the desktop/laptop market

Cloud computing continues to gain more market share. The industry experts who project continued growth in cloud computing ignore the impact of the handful of security scandals that will no doubt occur in the coming months and years. And it's uncertain how the marketplace will shake out as more and more developers create hybrid apps that will run in the cloud and also run on local devices, from smartphones and tablets to desktops and laptops.

As more developers move their applications to the cloud, the microISVs who remain in the Windows desktop/laptop market will have fewer competitors. Again, fewer competitors could result in increased income and profits for successful microISVs who remain in the world of Windows.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

In the coming years, you won't have to ask your daughter if she spent two minutes brushing her teeth before bedtime. Her electric toothbrush will go online and transmit that information directly to your tablet or smartphone.

With the Internet of Things, many of your appliances, devices, and automobiles will be communicating with you in real time. In addition to receiving tweets from your cousins about what they ate for breakfast, you'll also be receiving feedback from your toaster about the food that it prepared for your family.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the IoT. While most of these devices will be deployed by home users, Gartner predicts that manufacturing (15%), healthcare (15%), and insurance (11%) will contribute substantially to the Internet of Things.

These IoT devices won't program themselves. Thousands of microISVs will be creating software for intelligent appliances. And that means fewer competitors for microISVs who continue to develop for the Windows desktop/laptop platforms.

Wearables and microISVs

Juniper Research predicts that the wearable technology market will take off in the next few years. Between 2014 and 2016, Juniper tells us, shipments of wearable devices such as smart watches and glasses will be about 130 million units. That's about ten times larger than the 2014 baseline number.

Sales of wearable devices are low, Juniper explains, because there are privacy, legal, and social problems that need to be resolved. And a lot more marketing work has to be done to convince people that these devices aren't just toys, but necessities.

Google Glass has the potential to become a huge force in the marketplace. Put on your titanium-framed glasses, and tell Google Glass what you want. To take a picture, simply say the words "take a picture." Receive navigation information and driving directions on your eyeglass screen. Ask questions aloud, and your wearable device will do a Google search and put the results on your lens. Let Google Glass translate phrases in real time into a different language.

Last year, Forbes Magazine published an in-depth article about the emerging sports wearable device market. They studied 34 companies that have released devices, and predict that there will be many winners and losers among these contenders. "The companies that can build a platform around helping their target customers reach their goals will win. Customer intimacy and tightly integrated technology and services that meet these needs will be ultimate winners."

All of these wearable devices, and the thousands of additional devices that will be released in the coming months and years, will require intensive programming efforts. And as more and more systems engineers leave the desktop/laptop marketplace to work on wearables, the companies that are positioned to develop Windows applications could be in stronger financial shape than they are today.

The bottom line

The Windows desktop/laptop marketplace is in decline. But it's not falling like a stone. It will continue to remain strong for many years to come.

Now is the time to learn more about cloud computing, the smartphone and tablet markets, the Internet of Things, and the wearables marketplace. But this is not the time to panic or jump quickly from Windows to other platforms.

Plan now for a time when the desktop/laptop market will be problematic for microISVs. But that time is not coming for a few years. Don't throw away your experience with Windows development tools, your customer base of Windows software users, and all of the other tangible and intangible assets that you've created in recent years because of the unfounded notion that Windows sales will dry up tomorrow. They won't.

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