Whoever said “the only constant is change” probably worked in tech. As the tech industry is constantly evolving, so are the tools used in it. Packt, creators of the skills learning platform Mapt, asked some of their developers-turned-bestselling authors for their insights into what has changed the most in recent years and what we might expect in the years to come. Here’s what they said.
Education is changing – is this the end of the Computer Science Grad?
It’s no secret that technology has revolutionised the classroom, but how has education itself changed the technology industry? Mark Price, author of C# 6 and .NET Core 1.0: Modern Cross-Platform Development, thinks that recent years has seen educational expectations change dramatically, and for the benefit of those within in the industry. “When I started as a developer,” says Mark, “having a degree was an expected entry point to a professional technical career.”
Now, he says, more companies are realising that they’re missing out on potential talented employees. Large businesses like Ernst & Young are dropping their degree requirements for applications, and Mark thinks that the decision will “trigger a wave of similar decisions from smart employers.”
“Why spend three years at university learning what out-of-touch academics think, and rack up lots of debt, when you could do an apprenticeship and start earning from age 16?” He added, “three years later you could be £50,000 better off financially and have three years of real world experience compared to a graduate.”
With the steadily increasing cost of higher education, and fewer Computer Science graduates finding employment, alternative paths into a technical career might become more appealing to young people – especially with the current government continuing their push on providing apprenticeships.
Bots are still the future
Jon Hoffman, author of Mastering Swift 3 – Linux, started working with computers over 36 years ago when he was just 12 years old. For him, the most exciting thing on the horizon is single board computers like the BeagleBone Black and the Next Thing CHIP. He says, “using these computers, we will be able to build devices that interact with the external world – things like temperature sensors, motion sensors, and even Robots.” Mark Price added that he thinks the future includes Big Data analysis and Machine Learning driving ‘Bots’.
He said “today, companies have websites that customers can browse to find information stored in a CMS. Tomorrow, we’ll be creating front-end Bots to the same CMS. Customers will be able to have a conversation with a Bot that knows all about that organisation. In the future, instead of going to Gatwick Airport's website to find out about flight times, we'll be having an interactive chat with Gatwick Airport's Bot, either through using a chat app or verbally like Siri or Cortana or whatever boring name Google uses for theirs.”
The way business works is evolving, and developers must be prepared to innovate or get left behind
Alan Thorn is a Game Developer and author of Mastering Unity 5.x. In his opinion, the games industry is experiencing a shift in the landscape which will see developers looking to innovate more than ever before. “I think the most significant change since I began my work has been in the public consciousness. In games development, our perception of time and expectation has changed - so much content is expected to be free of price, and so many games are released so quickly that any undivided dedication from consumers to a specific game or franchise is increasingly unlikely,” he says.
“This poses unique challenges to a developer, and so it becomes even more important commercially to either innovate significantly or imitate skillfully.” The most exciting games dev innovations in Alan’s opinion are those that look in a different direction from the mainstream. “With so much commercial interest in hardware and nascent tools like VR, Augmented Reality, Motion Controls and Photogrammetry, there’s a drive towards creating immersive, photo-realistic experiences. But it’s easy for other games and movements to go unnoticed. There’s a burgeoning world of alternative games relying on unique art-styles (Clay-Jam or Papers Please), or on unique mechanics (Goat Simulator) or stories (Stanley Parable).
Creating innovative and exciting experiences outside the ‘mainstream’ parameters is especially interesting to me.” Sreelatha Sankaranarayanan, author of Learning IBM Bluemix, adds that the ever-growing start-up culture means we will continue to see a shifting business landscape, dictated by grassroots developers with unique ideas.
She says, “The surge in crowdsourced ideas and software is a revelation, especially when you see how these are penetrating the enterprise markets. Startup culture has witnessed hundreds of tremendously successful stories of entrepreneurship.”
The rise (and rise) of Open Source
This year saw the 10th annual Open Source survey and, as predicted, it suggested that Open Source is continuing to grow. The survey suggests that Open Source is no longer the exception to the rule, essentially becoming the the default for practically every sector of the software industry.
Companies are increasingly using Open Source for their operating systems, databases, and development tools, with the cloud and Big Data being the next areas predicted to see a significant push towards Open Source. Hans Jurgen Schonig, author of PostgreSQL Replication, says that he’s seen this trend develop over the course of his career. He said, “I think we have all experienced a steady move towards Open Source. When I started, Open Source was not what it is now – it was more for cracks and freaks. It has become pretty mainstream these days, at least in the professional world.”
But Hans expects that there are challenges yet to be overcome. He reckons that the desktop still has yet to be conquered, and that “might not happen in the foreseeable future.” He also added that “GPU processing is on the rise, which will be an exciting topic. The tragedy is simply that NVIDIA basically owns the market – which is not good for Open Source.” But with the use of OSS increasing in 65 per cent of companies surveyed, who knows what Open source won’t take on next.
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa
Mark Price, Alan Thorn, Sreelatha Sankaranarayanan, Jon Hoffman, Hans Jurgen Schonig, authors at Packt