Some Trends for 2012

This is the time of year when tech bloggers everywhere post predictions for the new year. My prediction for 2012 is simple: this year will be about convergence. The previous software application waves called “desktop”, “web”, “social”, “mobile”, and “cloud” will converge, as the lines between them will continue to blur.

In the end, an application is an application. And users today want to be able to use that application anywhere, from any device, and have their personal content just magically appear.

This is as true for consumers as it is for office workers. As a consumer, I want my Amazon.com experience to be seamless on my computer, my iPad, and my iPhone. And when I’m at work I want to be able to create a spreadsheet, work on it anywhere, and collaborate on it with my office colleagues anywhere.

For developers, of course, the challenge is creating software applications which deliver a high-quality user experience across many different devices. But 2012 technologies will make it easier than ever for software engineers to “write once, run many". New applications will no longer need a desktop version, a web version, and a mobile version. Convergence allows us to develop one version, available to users everywhere. That’s a huge opportunity.

Here are some other trends we expect to be a big part of the year ahead…

Mobile First

For most websites and applications, mobile is clearly the growth area. According to Gartner Research, smartphones and tablets will represent more than 90 percent of the growth of device adoption in the coming four years. So any new online initiative needs to start by looking at how to create a high quality experience for mobile users.

Open Standard Tech Prevails

Making a software application perform well across multiple platforms requires an absolute commitment to open standards. In 2011 we saw Flash, a proprietary (“semi-open”) technology die-off for just this reason. At Tivix our standard development stack is LAMP (P=Python), Django, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – all open-source, standards-based technologies. In 2012 HTML5 will be the most important standard of all, bringing a whole suite of open technologies which work across all devices – from computers to tablets to mobile phones.

Infrastructure Disappears

The essential benefit of cloud computing (and its cousin, Software-as-a-Service) is that users don't to have to purchase, install, and configure anything; computing is just delivered to them as an on-demand service. The same is true for us as developers. Today, with solutions like AWS or Linode, we can have an entire set of servers configured and running in a half-hour, with zero capital investment. This is huge, especially for the kind of development speed and agility our clients want from us today. In 2012 infrastructure will continue to become invisible, reliable, and essentially infinitely-scalable.

Strong User Experience

The bar is set high today. Users expect even a simple website or enterprise application to have the same quality of user experience they get on Facebook or Google. On top of that, a user interface today has to work well on many different screen sizes, from large monitors to tablets to small smartphones. 2012 will see the embracing of Responsive Design techniques, where the design of the user interface automatically and fluidly adjusts for the user’s device and screen size. For some great examples of Responsive Design, see Foodsense, the Boston Globe, and Illy (open and close the width of your browser window and watch how the design automatically adjust itself for any screen size, including mobile).

2012 will feature many other tech trends as well, of course. Social will continue to be huge, as will the geolocation capabilities of mobile. And the combination of the two will continue to drive opportunities to deliver context-aware content to users. The proliferation of mobile payment solutions will mean that consumers will become increasingly comfortable using their smartphones for shopping and purchasing. And video of all kinds will continue to be the largest growth category of online content.

But mostly, 2012 will be about convergence. At Tivix, we see nothing be great opportunities ahead. It’s going to be an exciting year.