Wagging the Technology Dog
So often technology follows along with the winds of popularity. We live, obviously, in a consumer driven economy. So where innovation can create amazing possibilities for futuristic advancements in technology, if they don't catch the eye of consumers they may be shelved until mainstream technology demands beg, or until the creation is lost forever behind a myriad of other phenomenal-but-boring creations shelved on top of it. Look up the Next computer, for instance -- power to create a Pixar visual experience on your desktop about the same time Pixar came into existence -- produced by some guy named Jobs (with all due respect to his memory).
As software developers we are sometimes called upon to foretell the future of technology -- to pick options for software that dictate development platforms, databases, operating environments, equipment requirements, and more. Sometimes we are asked to look ahead to the time when the software is complete or in its prime, sometimes as much as a year or 18 months in the future. How can we predict where technology will be 18 months in the future? Large companies such as Google and Microsoft, Apple and Samsung change technologies in timeframes measured in weeks or months, with names such as Silverlight, Flash, and more dissipating into the has-been realm without much warning.
No matter that some of these technologies embodied the future of web-app development in fine form, with secure, high performance, rich user experiences that gave us a taste of native mobile apps on the desktop. We made the leap to Silverlight in its heyday, thinking that if Microsoft were to compete at an equal level, especially on the mobile platform, with iOS and Android, that Silverlight would be the flagship technology to get them there. "Native" Windows Phone = Silverlight, right? Flash was facing its own challenges at the time as Apple refused to enable Flash on its iPad. Then the bomb dropped, and now four years after Microsoft made the switch to HTML5 as its preferred web/internet technology, we are on the verge of an app takeover with no clear mechanism in sight for Windows Phone and Surface to compete with the App Store and Google Play.