What The Year Of The Goat Has In Store For Software Development

In the Chinese calendar, 2015 is the year of the Goat. So what will that bring? We’ll look at mobile, web, Mac, Windows and Linux.

In the Mobile market, Android will continue to gain market share. With Lollypop, Android’s latest OS, being released late in 2014, look for more updates from phone and apps. Not that updates are anything new in the OS upgrade cycle. Part of the driver of Android is the acceptance of larger and larger phones. Although the iPhone 6 has a bigger screen than the iPhone 5, Apple is stuck with a set of iPad screen sizes. The Apple form factor seems set. Some have speculated that they need a bigger iPhone, or a smaller iPad still to capture the market of screen sizes as consumers seem to be redefining the market.

Once upon a time, the market seemed to accept a set of phone and tablet sizes. Now, with so many companies entering (mostly from the Android side), with alternate screen size, who know what the best form factor maybe.

The Android OS, allows a number of hardware manufactures to choose a screen size with total freedom and to use the Android OS. Apple may be stuck as their OS is locked to their hardware. That’s because Apple is taking all the risk of developing their hardware. Google has no risk if a company wants to try odd sized hardware. So the comparison is not really fair. Apples fixes screen sizes may mean that the Apple OS is on a declining share of devices, but Apple is not going to loose their shirt on hardware gambles.

But Apple’s weapon is swipe-to-pay (see my recent article about ApplePay). An integrated payment service. We’ll see the adoption rate, yet the fingerprint reader may prove to allow other apps to be written. The swipe to pay also requires all Apple devices to have Near field communication (NFC) chips. That technology may be exploited by app developers for other uses. So expect more hardware apps for the Apple product line.

Mobile devices keep getting bigger.

Laptop sales are doing just fine, but phone are getting bigger and bigger. These crossovers (often called Fablets Phone + Tablet), are gaining popularity. Often requiring a scabbard to sheath the fablet to one’s belt, the trend should continue into 2015. Partly this is due to longer battery life and quick charge batteries which can rapidly gain a 25-50% charge in 30 min or less.

And battery life combined with rapid charging should be an accelerating trend of 2015. Expect apps that suck battery life to gain acceptance as the barrier is lowered. This includes talking GPS and other apps that use video and speech with some kind of communications hardware (GPS, BlueTooth, WiFi, or Cell service).

Desktop and laptop apps see new operating systems – MacX OS 10.10 and Windows 10 (out late in 2015). No major news is expected, but the disappointment with Windows 8 will fade as 10 is released. Yes Microsoft is skipping a version 9. With no new Linux updates expected, 2015 should be an uneventful year for software on the desktop.

The web however, should continue to see demand for responsive designs (web sites that adapt to the users screen size). Paradoxically, most smart phones don’t need responsive design. Demand for smart design peaked in 2012 as HTML5/CSS3/Javascript websites were able to adapt to the users screen size and orientation (portrait or landscape). That’s because feature phones (non smart phones with simple browsers) were out of vogue by 2012 as smart phone sales dominated.

Three other factors caused the need for responsive design to decline. Smart phone screen sized were increasing, Apple IOS and Android made their browsers better (able to handle more complicated site design), and designers were moving to simpler designs to try to appeal to mobile users.

Web designers were feeling the pressure because Google would rank sites lower if it did not look good on a mobile device. The demand for page rank fuelled the push for responsive design. But fast forward to late 2014, and we see that need dwindling. Yet fear of lower page rank spurs site owners to think they need a responsive site even when smart phones and tablets really don’t.

So you can expect the market to continue to demand responsive designs even when most all WordPress themes are responsive out of the box.

Winners and loosers.

Amazon’s Fire Phone is a bid Flop.

Despite all the hoop-la, the Fire has almost no sales. With an average of 2.3 stars out of five from 3,525 reviews in the US, Amazon has lost a staggering 170 Million on unsold phones. Successful smart-phones from Apple and Samsung typically sell millions of units in their first month on sale.

This is not nearly as bad as what Microsoft lost on the Surface. Loosing more money in marketing than the cost to manufacture the units sold. The latest version of the Surface is actually quite nice and works well. It’s hard to tell if Microsoft will invest more to promote the Surface.

Surprisingly, more people are using Windows Phones. It has taken Microsoft a long time to get their Windows Phone into the market with any success. Maybe 2015 will be the year they start making some head way. Look for the trend to continue and see if the development community starts developing for the third player in phone the OS war.

The big questions for 2015 are Instragram and Pinterest. Pinterest is still enjoying huge growth and Instagram is exploding. So software that takes advantage of these platforms should be in demand.