The year that just concluded was a historic year of change. On the world stage, 2009 began with a new president of the United States and ended with the major United Nations Climate Change Conference. Throughout the year, wars raged around the globe, while the worldwide economy began to recover from recession.

While the software development world saw continuing innovation and evolution, there were no seismic revolutions, there were no drastic changes of paradigm or emerging models of corporate computing. Instead, change was incremental, with the three biggest stories representing continuations of changes that started in 2008 and earlier: cloud computing, mobile applications development, and the future of Java.

The emergence of the cloud as a serious enterprise development and deployment platform in 2009 was precipitated by a perfect storm of economic necessity and technological innovation. The recession made cloud computing desirable for CIOs who preferred to rent storage and computing power instead of investing in capital-intensive infrastructure. The platforms themselves were evolved mainly by, but with strong supporting roles played by Google and Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Azure gave the cloud additional legitimacy. If 2009 was the year of anything, it was the Year of the Cloud.

While the cloud thought big, mobile computing thought small, thanks to the rise of the “mobile app” as a viable business model. Just when we thought that the full-featured portable browser would become the hub of the mobile Internet, local apps—popularized by the runaway success of Apple’s iPhone and App Store—became the preferred way to access data on small devices.

The iPhone inspired rivals, from the open-source Android to a resurgent Palm. Meanwhile, apps flew off the electronic shelves, enthusiast programmers became millionaires, and the micro browser became irrelevant.

And then there’s Java, and the rest of Sun Microsystems’ impressive software portfolio. For years, Sun has been ailing. For years, the company struggled to find a moneymaking business model. However, the company also was the owner of vital platforms, such as the Java Community Process (and of Java itself), the SPARC processor, Solaris, OpenOffice and, most recently, MySQL. Sun’s collapse was inevitable.

The burning question: What would happen to Java and the other products owned by the company that “put the dot in dot-com”? During 2009 we learned the answer: Sun will be purchased by hyper-competitive Oracle. What changes will that mean for JCP stalwarts like IBM and SAP? We’ll all find out after the deal closes.

Looking forward to 2010
Over the next 12 months, the three big trends mentioned above—the evolution of the cloud, the transformation of mobile computing, and the effects of Sun’s acquisition—will play out. All will be significant throughout the year.

Two other stories we’re following:

Agile computing is maturing. It’s not just a manifesto anymore: Many development shops have adopted agile practices. Some have gone deep and are religious about Scrum, Extreme Programming or some other methodology. Others are guided more by the agile philosophy and have chosen elements of various methodologies to create their own lean practices. Only the most highly entrenched organizations are untouched by agile.

The questions now: Where does agile go from here? Does it just fade into a set of best practices? Indeed, is there even an agile movement any longer? We’ll see changes and evolution here in 2010.

Hybrid applications beat Web applications. In the mobile space, that’s playing itself out with native apps for smartphones. On standard desktop and notebook computers, we’re seeing a resurgence in rich Internet applications built on Internet-aware runtimes.

The leader in the RIA market, of course, is Flash, but Microsoft’s Silverlight platform is coming on strong as a way of delivering Internet applications that can leverage local processing and, increasingly, local storage and other resources. With Silverlight 4 new on the scene, and with changes coming to Adobe’s Flash and AIR, more and more client code will be built on RIAs instead of JavaScript or pure native platforms.

It’s going to be an interesting year, and not the least because our Feb. 15, 2010, issue will celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Happy New Year from everyone at SD Times.