Software developers set sights on the Web

Although the Web has had its fair share of hits and misses, the software developer industry still considers the Internet a prime applications target, according to a recent survey conducted by Santa Cruz, Calif.-based research firm Evans Data Corp.

The Evans Data North American Developer Survey is a bi-annual survey that tracks and forecasts technology adoption rates, developer activities and emerging technologies. In the September 2001 edition, Evans Data interviewed more than 800 U.S. and Canadian developers and reported that over 90 per cent of respondents said “Internet/Web” development is the main focus of future application development. This includes a third of developers who devote more than 50 per cent of their time to the Web, according to Evans Data.

When asked to describe the type of software they write, the majority of developers noted “Internet/Web”, followed by “client-server” and “desktop”. The survey also found that within 12 to 24 months, the biggest concern among developers will be budgeting the time to develop and maintain sites, followed by “content management and creating better and richer user interfaces.”

“Even though we’ve seen the dot-com bubble grow and then finally explode, the Internet is still there and still holds just as much promise,” said Evans Data analyst Jay Dixit, adding that the software developer community is acutely aware that future applications will need to address disparate devices.

“Cross-device publishing came up as being both a significant trend and the greatest problem in Web development. We’re seeing a lot of people moving towards the Web services model,” Dixit said.

The study noted that the biggest trend in Web development is Web services – more than 37 per cent of respondents are currently developing Web services-enabled applications, Dixit said, while just over 63 per cent expect to write code for Web services in 2002.

Dixit added that the survey reveals that developers are actively targeting the Internet due to its potential to both reach a large audience and change the way companies do business.

The Internet is still the number one application target because it is the only platform-independent way of delivering applications to users, noted Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst and IT advisor for Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.

“Whether through HTML or through more complex Flash or Java applications, these are the only mechanisms that aren’t tied to specific Windows, Macintosh or Unix platform features,” Eunice said. “That independence has long been, and remains, hugely attractive and valuable. Otherwise, your development team has to have platform experts on board, and do a lot of platform-specific coding, which is often prohibitively difficult and expensive.”

Eunice agreed that Web services will be the most significant trend in 2002, with cross-publishing coming a distant second.

“Web services is the extension of Web standards to more than just the face of applications, but also the communication of application components. We agree that this is the most significant trend – well ahead of cross-device publishing,” Eunice said. He contends that cross-device publishing won’t necessarily be a huge concern among developers: “How many apps really must be available on the Web and equally on palmtops and cell phones? There are large media companies, for example, that will target multiple output formats for strong business reasons, but most enterprises don’t have nearly as much pressure to do full suites of work for mobile devices,” Eunice said.

“Cross-device publishing is an extension of the original problem of platform-specific applications. If you have to do a specific version of your app for the Web, another for cell phones, a third one for PDAs, et cetera, this is not much better than one version for Windows 98, another for Windows Me, and a third for Macintosh. There is also, in XML especially, a technical opportunity for many developers to structure their work so that it can be intelligently and effectively remapped to multiple kinds of devices,” he added.

“Don’t be fooled by the dot-bomb. The Internet still changes – if not everything (not economics, for instance) – almost everything.”