What will software development be like in the year 2020? It would be easy to draw a straight line from 10 years ago through today, and see where it goes a decade from now.

Ten years ago: Hosted applications through ASPs (application service providers) were getting started, but had little impact. Today: Hosted applications through the cloud and SaaS providers are having some impact on enterprise data centers, particularly in smaller companies. Ten years from now: Hosted applications will be mainstream, and IT managers will have to justify running applications on premise.

Ten years ago: The Web was everything, and browsers were how desktops and mobile devices (in their limited way) dealt with Internet-based services. Today: Desktops are browser devices but mobile devices increasingly use apps to manipulate Internet services as diverse as Facebook, reading newspapers and enterprise resources. Ten years from now: Apps will have taken over mobile devices entirely, and “walled garden” apps will be a significant presence on the enterprise desktop. The browser will be far less important than it is today.

Ten years ago: Distributed development teams just starting to leverage Internet bandwidth, hosted SCM systems and collaboration systems—but even so, most developers lived in their IDEs. Today: The value of collaboration tools has been proven, and in many organizations, sophisticated ALM suites have turned the standalone developer into an endangered species. Ten years from now: More and more ALM functionality will migrate onto servers, particularly hosted servers across the Internet. IDEs will be turning into front-end apps. Source code and metadata will live in cyberspace.

Ten years ago: Most serious enterprise developers worked with native compiled languages, with the primary exceptions of Web script, Visual Basic and Java. Today: Managed languages like Java, C#, Perl, PHP and Python rule the enterprise, with C/C++ and other native languages being seen as specialist tools for those who need to stay close to the hardware. Ten years from now: With the exception of device developers, the world will belong to managed runtimes and virtual machines.

Ten years ago: Databases meant an SQL-based relational database from a company like Oracle or IBM. Today: While most enterprise data is still in a large SQL-based RDMS, such as OracleDB, DB2 or SQL Server, many development teams have embraced lighter-weight alternatives like MySQL and are playing with NoSQL alternatives. Ten years from now: Most enterprise data will still be in giant relational databases, but there will be more acceptance of those alternatives.

Ten years ago: The most important members of a software development team were its programmers; testers got no respect. Today: The most important members of a team are seen as its architects; testers get no respect. Ten years from now: The most important members of the team will be its agile coaches and champions; testers will get no respect.

Ten years ago: Software development was seen as a wonderful career, even after the dot-com implosion. Today: Software development is a wonderful career, but the recession has affected many enterprise jobs. Ten years from now: New tools will empower less-technical professionals to build applications, but software development will still be a wonderful career, as we take on the hard problems that nobody else can solve.

Ten years ago: SD Times launched. Today: On July 15, 2010, we celebrate the publication of our 250th issue. Ten years from now: The future’s so bright, we’ll have to wear shades.

Alan Zeichick is editorial director of SD Times. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/zeichick. Read his blog at ztrek.blogspot.com.