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Software Platforms of the Future

A very important trend to watch in 2007 will be the ongoing efforts to separate the operating system from the platform (the APIs and user interface that an application interacts with).

Key players in this movement include Adobe’s Apollo and Microsoft WPF/E.

Adobe Apollo is a combination of Flash, PDF, Java, and HTML. The first target for Apollo is Web 2.0 developers who want to make their services into icons that can be double-clicked on a PC desktop and run outside a browser. Apollo will eventually stretch to mobile devices and other consumer electronics as well. The first release version of it is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2007.
Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E) has goals similar to Apollo’s but is also burdened with the need not to make Windows obsolete. Like Apollo, WPF/E is scheduled to be deployed in the first half of 2007.

Apollo and WPF/E alternatives
There are also a number of smaller companies trying to establish their own platforms that run across operating systems. For example, a company called StyleTap has created an open source version of the Palm operating system and is licensing it for use on other mobile devices.

And then of course there’s Java, which is halfway between a programming language and a full platform. We’ll be interested to see if Sun’s move to open source Java will accelerate its development, or just fragment it into a series of incompatible islands.

Memory and processing power, OS make it possible
Although the idea of OS-independent platforms dates back many years, two trends have given it more of a boost recently. The first is that the memory and processing power of computers has grown so much that there’s enough power available to run a fairly sophisticated platform on top of the OS. In the past, doing this often reduced performance dramatically.
The second reason is that there are now many more different operating systems that need to be bridged. The desktop is still dominated by Windows, but mobile devices have a bewildering array of operating systems, and there’s no sign of a consolidation. That creates intense demand from software developers for a solution that will let them deploy the same code in many places.
In the coming year we’ll continue to track closely the progress of these OS-independent platforms. We strongly encourage software companies to consider whether they can use them, especially if they’re planning software that will be deployed on both desktops and mobile devices.

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