% fortune -ae paul murphy

Predictions for 2010

It's unfortunate that the Saturday schedule puts this on the day after Christmas - because there's not a lot of good news.

The Economy

First of all, everything we do in IT is conditioned by the economy, and the economy is going to get worse - and not just in the United States. It's simply not possible to take the world's most productive economy out of play and not create a vacuum that will suck down everyone else too.

(Yes, I know lots of people are saying that things are looking up, but it's the same people who spent eight years yelling down the Bush economy - and you can jawbone a market up or down if you're a big enough player, but the reality disconnect is obvious when you consider that the same guys who screamed about economic disaster while the economy grew from 2002 to 2008 and most Americans held jobs, are now blowing hard to puff economic growth when over 10% of Americans can't find jobs, another 7% or so have given up looking, and more are being laid off every day.)

Bottom line: expect it to get worse; plan accordingly - and if the attack on America gets derailed before November? well, it's a lot easier to adapt to good news than bad.

2010's astonishing tech success

I've been saying for years that google is vulnerable to a kid with a better search idea - and while some think Bing's been proving me wrong on that, the truth is that Bing isn't really a better idea: it's just the same idea minus the social agenda.

Wolfram Alpha, in contrast, is a better idea- one whose execution seems likely to benefit in a perverse way from the economic mess. What's going on there is that alpha is on the long and slow climb to respectability characteristic of products that seemingly come out of nowhere to take the world by storm - but really spent years growing roots. That's what Alpha's been doing, and because their funding is pretty much assured they're using the time the economic slowdown gives them to significantly improve their product.

By this time next year I'd expect a majority of readers to be familiar with at least the name and a few key ideas - and two or three years from now a majority among the web's more educated users to be regularly using alpha to replace both search engines like google or bing and faux knowledge engines like wikipedia.

2010's astonishing tech scandal

According to the theory of cognitive dissonance - simultaneously (and not coincidently) the most reviled behavioral theory there is and the only one that produces consistently correct behavioral predictions - most people will double down on stupid as long as there's someone telling them they're not alone in doing it - but once the dam starts to crumble, many of the early leakers will become proselytizing antagonists. That's what's happening now with respect to both google and wikipedia.

Both are under attack for information hiding and information distortion.

Last weekend, for example, the communist Chinese leadership in Copenhagen treated the American president with all the respect he deserves -and in that process grieviously insulted both the Office and the American idea. Today (Dec 22nd), however, eight of the top ten google hits on "Obama snub Copenhagen Chinese Premier" either deny anything happened, attack those who reported what happened, or otherwise downplay the event. In contrast, four of the top five hits from the same search on bing quote eyewitness accounts in discussions of the event and its implications for Americans.

Similarly, this week's big news from wikipedia celebrates a senior player getting caught censoring over 5,000 separate articles relating to climate science, climate politics, and the individuals involved - all apparently as part a strategy aimed at selling climate alarmism while destroying the careers and personal credibility of those who said that the data did not support the conclusions:

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn't like the subject of a certain article, he removed it - more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred - over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley's global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia's blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

I think it's early days on this, but that we'll see the abuse of google and wikipedia to hide some information completely while preferentially putting forward agenda driven publications as authoritative, will become a cause celebre - and the biggest tech scandal of 2010.

Sun will recover

But only if its new owners (presumably Oracle), replace; remotivate; or redirect most of Sun's line management in marketing, emphasize SPARC/Solaris, go after the mid market; and put more much effort into selling the company's technology advantages while de-emphasizing its ability to compete on price reselling nearly the same x86 junk everybody else does.


If you liked Windows security, you'll love what the bad guys can do with mobile phones - especially the next gen ME/Atom ones widely promised for RSN.

Android and iPhone, because ARM/PPC/Unix and not x86/Windows, will do better than the rest; but by year's end the number of scare stories about stolen sync data and trusted connections going wrong will be serious enough for even the traditional media to notice.

New Hardware

Sun apparently has a rock box about ready for prime time as an Oracle applications server but nobody making decisions - and Apple, if it does finally release the iNet for use as a video equipped iPhone and personal interface between the net and an HD TV, could go a long way toward upsetting the cable company cart.

Beyond that, however, I think it'll be slim pickings with thin clients picking up a bit, Linux sucking some market share out of continuing economic uncertainty, and IBM probably pushing back the switch to cell for another Power or hybrid generation.

Open source

Open source is already solidly main stream - 2010 will see that become more obvious to more people.

Programming languages

As I've said several times Sun's Fortress language had great potential largely because its creators found effective ways to adapt ideas from APL and LISP to today's hardware, but ate up much of that potential through excessive complication and too much ritual bowing toward Java and the whole re-usable object idea.

Google's go programming language looks like more of the same - but has three significant advantages over Fortress: a simplified concurrency and threading model; a familiar look that's likely to convince beginners and pundits that it's not hard to learn; and a combined library and function structure that will eventually push those who really do learn to use it toward adopting the APL/LISP throw-away coding culture.

Between them these will, I think, make Go the breakthrough development environment for 2010.

Customer care on the web

There's a fast growing epidemic of what I think of as screwuicitus (the more PC term -lovingly coined by a junior helping draft the 1946 Army DSM manual- is "Malignant narcissistic personality disorder") affecting DP managed windows shops. This example, technically a hopeless hop, is a response from info@electionsalberta.ca to an email asking for information:

Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2009 15:58:48 -0700
Content-Language: en-US
Subject: Undeliverable: form query
X-Spam: [F=0.2000000000; CM=0.500; S=0.200(2009110601)]
X-SOURCE-IP: [(unknown)]
X-AnalysisOut: [v=1.0 c=1 a=FKqoTAkqqqzS8bulTHJWDA==:17 a=Tc8dGPhyAAAA:8 a]
X-AnalysisOut: [=bv6bFCNp7-9ugQYD-14A:9 a=Yo77siEqQ3jiC286QuutTcVvMSMA:4 a]
X-AnalysisOut: [=Jxe9xgG-pfsA:10 a=8OTclXnn6y8A:10 a=yxUQOyTO8zkA:10 a=g0r]
X-AnalysisOut: [9pcIiu8AA:10 a=xiFkkGY24DfCcbPf:21 a=eBedUNMayesKZ6iE:21 a]
X-AnalysisOut: [=PoYnnNtHiO6ZZESWjWEA:7 a=-3L5SdoPKKtaFP5cMSPt9crfO1wA:4 a]
X-AnalysisOut: [=aOlAIKAlFP8A:10 a=U8bkrWzPuQwA:10 a=6YMv5lkmwArEvWrA:21 a]
X-AnalysisOut: [=AkraVF67Akh1eLcT:21 a=jUplb4chcM6txb2-hOkA:9 a=XUuUfRPsYo]
X-AnalysisOut: [e1iY7s0TPQxojJTngA:4 a=sA-ssjpUAAAA:8 a=6m6jf_kxXhjD1BRq8m]
X-AnalysisOut: [QA:9 a=5c7CR3u8qAZW27wCBNoA:7 a=VHrYSyJ6auanJfjOsbsnUx-HGW]
X-AnalysisOut: [sA:4 a=TEQiFNGRbg4A:10 a=LK2cxUu1gWkA:10 a=61nhVlxHhMZrA5p]
X-AnalysisOut: [2:21 a=tA0rCwbRLPBPz3RV:21]

This will get worse - probably much worse, as organizations preferentially lay off the wrong people and thus end up giving their most deeply dug in DP people an increasing role in customer contact management.

And in general?

More of the same: more Linux uptake among those who see no alternative to x86 and find themselves marginalized in the on-going data processing takeover of wintel; consistent growth in the Mac world; increasing consumer resistance on paying for much more than they get on internet connectivity; and much more pundit nonsense about clouds, virtualization, Windows security, and souped up pagers and netbooks pretending to be iSomethings.

Bottom line for 2010? a holding pattern with not that much in the way of grounds for optimism before markets understand just how revolutionary the November elections in the United States are likely to be.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.