Saturday, December 27, 2014

Software died three years ago. Why?

This is a weird time in software. Lots of things are going away, but few new things are appearing.

As best I can tell Windows software died around 2005. Based on what I’ve seen over the past year, particularly in the Mac App Store, OS X software died around 2011. The Chrome and Safari extensions I’ve looked for, like Pinboard extensions today, were often last updated in 2011 — around the time Google Reader died.

The iOS app store is such a well known mess that my fellow (adn) geeks can’t find anything new to say, except that iTunes 12 is probably worse. Aperture died 6 months ago and yet is still being sold. Yosemite is still months away from release ready. My Google Custom Search Engines return fewer good results. Google Plus is moribund. Windows 8 might be fine but no-one I know uses it. 

I can’t speak to Android, except for second hand reports of increasing malware problems. If I strain to find a bright spot I’d say Google Maps is improving in some ways, but regressing in others. Ok, there’s the malware industry. It’s flourishing.

I seem to remember something like this in the 90s, both before and after Mosaic. Long time ago though, I may be confounding eras.

My best guess is that our software development is a lagging casualty of the Great Recession. Good software takes years to create, so the crash of 2009 probably played out in software around 2011. The effects were somewhat offset by involuntary entrepreneurs creating small but excellent products. The Great Recession’s effects started to fade in 2014, but that meant many Creatives were sucked back into profitable employment. The projects they’re working on now won’t bear fruit until 2015 and 2016.

The Great Recession is probably the main driver, but there are synergistic contributors. Apple was probably coming apart at the seams when Jobs fell ill, and it now behaves like a corporation riven by civil war. The stress of the mobile transition, and the related transformation of the software market from geek to mass user, hit everyone. I’ve little insight into how well ad-funded software development is working, but Google’s disastrous Plus effort suggests it’s not all that healthy.

The good news is that there’s hope. Google may turn away from Plus. Facebook is going to have to find new revenue streams. There’s a storm building among Apple’s customers that Cook can’t possibly ignore. Most of all, the Great Recession is fading.

Here’s to 2015. Hang in there.

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