On Software development
I read the other day that the honorary British citizen, Will.i.am, who performed at the Jubilee, carried an Olympic torch and tweeted through a prime time TV show has committed to become a software developer. I don’t know what Will.i.am is profession wise, but he is certainly entrepreneurial in spirit and in tune with social media, but why his interest in becoming a software developer – or programmer as they used to be called. Surely such a vocation is one of a geek, and not one to drive celebrity status!
What is certainly true is that the mobile smartphone industry and the creation of “app-stores” has created an insatiable demand for lightweight, useful, and virtually free-of-cost applications. The Times reported that in 2012 over 20Bn applications were downloaded. The way we consume applications has changed as a result. As a consequence a man’s aversion to reading operating manuals has risen to such a point, in myself at least, that if I can’t intuitively run an application immediately, I will download a different one to see if it is easier to use. I did this with an alarm application on my iPhone for example as I couldn’t find a ring tone I liked. I am sure I am not alone in using applications in such a disposal Ikea-like fashion.
At the same time as the mobile phone industry is busy inundating the world with applications, we have had the Raspberry Pi introduced: a device that represents accessible and almost free computing power. Already companies such as Samsung have put similar computing power in washing machines and TVs. The day when no device will be built without such computing power being included as a default is not far away. It makes me wonder what such a default will mean for how we live our lives. I think it will mean not only an explosion of yet more applications on my mobile phone so that I can control every single gadget I own from anywhere on the planet, but it will also mean that I will get telemetry from every device I own to let me know how it is getting on with its mundane life. I almost certainly will have another application on my phone that will manage that telemetry for me, letting me (and the manufacturer) know when its close to failure or needs a part replacing perhaps. I suspect that clever value adding manufacturers will capture data about how I use the device they made for me so that they can improve their services in the future – in a Google-esque like manner. They might also want to make money by selling-on market profile information – again in a Google-esque like manner. Another driver for that current trend called Big Data.
So, in the not too distant future for every device ever made, software will need to be developed as a minimum, for:
- the embedded processing on the device itself,
- Four flavours (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry ) of applications on mobile phones to control that device,
- mobile phone applications to monitor that device and potentially clusters of devices – eg to manage my electricity usage
- a manufacturer’s support, marketing and R&D departments to analyse the consumption and operation of their products.
Such a vision represents a huge demand for software and hence software developers: a profession which is already much in demand. Hence it is a good thing that Will.i.am is leading the way in pledging to lend his support. It makes it easier for me to persuade my son to at least look at coding as not only a useful job, but as a job that has credibility and utility. I even plan to learn to code myself for that day when salesmen are no longer required.