In a “Wall Street Journal” article from last summer, Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen explained why software is eating the world. It’s the transformation of every business into a software company. Amazon knocked out Borders. Netflix took out Blockbuster. Pandora and iTunes dominate the music industry. Zynga is booming while Electronics Arts and Nintendo decline.
It is this same view of the world that drove Microsoft’s release last month of Visual Studio 2012, capping a year in which the company updated its platforms and tools to an unprecedented degree in its history. Among the releases: Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012, Office 365, Windows Azure, Visual Studio 2012, and version 4.5 of the .NET Framework. The goal is to enable businesses to build software in an agile way that advances the goals of the business.
“We used to live in a world where software companies were only seen in the high-tech industry. Today, every business on the planet is a software company,” said Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft.
There are several trends driving this, he said. First is the explosion of devices, or the notion of “BYOD” (bring your own device, for the uninitiated). In his article, Andreessen said he expects the number of people who own smartphones to reach 5 billion—BILLION—in the next 10 years, giving them, he wrote, “instant access to the full power of the Internet, every moment of every day.”
Somasegar noted that a seamless, always-on, connected experience needs to be provided for these consumers. Meanwhile, business customers need to have flexibility, agility and choices to solve business problems as soon as they arise, and to take advantage of ever-changing market opportunities to best serve their customers and attract new ones. One aspect that poses a challenge is the volume of data being generated in the world. Somasegar said businesses are asking, “How can I get my hands around it, get deep insight and turn that into a business advantage?”
Because of this, he said, there’s never been a better time to be a developer, because the opportunities are, in his words, huge. “Look at app stores. They give developers the opportunity to build something valuable, with reach, and the potential to have impact and monetize effectively is phenomenal,” he said.
Visual Studio 2012, he said, was designed to help developers build applications using modern development approaches in the modern application life cycle—the world of continuous services that are being built, tested, deployed and monitored all the time.
Among the value propositions of the development environment are easier navigation through tasks with a very user-friendly interface. “Developers spend a good amount of time inside the IDE,” said Somasegar. “For me, my home and my office are the places I want to be most comfortable. From a developer’s perspective, their development environment is their home. We want them to have as comfortable and productive an experience as possible.”
With lower barriers of entry to running services on cloud systems allowing companies of any size to reach the huge market that all these devices represent, Andreessen said “the dream of every cyber-visionary of the early 1990s [is] finally delivered.”
There is one caveat: There is not enough talent to fuel this new software revolution, as people lack the requisite skills to leverage this new infrastructure.
But that, of course, makes this a great time to be a developer.
David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.