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End of 2008

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Cross-posted at Code.Implant.

The blog updates have been a little dormant over the last month or so, but sometimes life gets in the way. In any case, it's the end of the year and a great time for a reflection of the year's events as we move on to another.

Personally and professionally it's been a challenging year of change, adjustment, and education. My experiences and personal studies have gained me a deeper understanding of politics, finance, and history and offered opportunities to improve softer skills like rhetoric, leadership, and organization. And of course, my never-ending search for a better way to build software has continued.

It's been an interesting year for the world, too. The United States elected an African American to president. The financial industry (and markets) collapsed. China's massive growth continued. Wars raged on. Some things changed, some things didn't.

Technology continues to change how we live and work. In my view the iPhone has had the biggest impact. Even though it wasn't introduced this year, the applications and business model it has brought is rapidly changing our world.

While we've had cell phones with internet and email access before (i.e. the Blackberry), no cell phone has made it as easily accessible as the iPhone. Full browser pages and simple touch-screen navigation really separate it from the mobile webpage and trackball/keyboard navigation systems of the past. As evidence of the iPhone's impact on mobile navigation, the Google Android and the Blackberry Storm have come out in the last 6 months.

To me the real key to the iPhone's impact is in bringing our world ever-closer. The ability to access information at a moment's notice, including to download applications, music, and videos, has revolutionized our communication and information mechanisms. Just years ago the laptop was the best mobile information and communication platform. Today it's the mobile phone.

But the iPhone's impact doesn't stop there. The platform is ripe for small software developers to get access to millions of potential customers across the world, and the platforms level playing field allows anyone, from Joe Indie (hi David) to major publishers like EA to compete in the iPhone application market.

How many stories have you heard of the single independent developer making several hundred thousand from sales of an application they spent less than a month to develop? I've heard of at least three just in the last few weeks. It's been a long time since a platform offered this level of opportunity, and it's a great time to be a software developer with an idea.

When it comes to gaming, the iPhone is hands-down THE mobile gaming platform. I love Nintendo DS, think the PSP is cool, have enjoyed my share of games on other mobile devices, but in the end the ease of accessibility to games, the interface, and the hardware platform itself make the iPhone the best mobile gaming platform by far. And finally - a phone that makes OpenGL ES shine. Don't believe me? As evidence, EA just released SimCity for the iPhone, which is a direct replica of SimCity 3000 ported to the mobile device.

There's more I could rave on about the iPhone, but I think you get the point. If there's anything in the technology world that has caused a shift it's the iPhone. It's been a subtle shift, from the standpoint that not many realize how their habits have changed, but it's there and building momentum. A new standard has been set for mobile devices, which means our individual connectivity to the world will forever be changed.

So for 2009 and beyond? I don't typically make predictions, but this year I'm going to make an attempt.

I see continued movement towards this individual freedom in connectivity that the iPhone has introduced. I see more opportunities for software developers of all kinds in expanding on these mobile platforms. Netbooks - smaller, scaled down laptops - will become even more popular (check out their holiday sales). They are already outselling the iPhone.

In the gaming world, as the cost to develop AAA titles continues to skyrocket, the role of the smaller, independent developer will become more important. With lower costs and less to lose, the independent developer can be more creative and take more risks, ultimately becoming the trend-setters in the gaming industry. Evidence of this is with the Independent Games Festival's award winner World of Goo by 2D Boy (a two-man shop - great game, guys).

Of course, 2009 will continue to see economic and financial issues, but that will only put more pressure for individual innovation and mobile freedom as the economic power of large institutions wanes. Technology is enabling small innovators to sprout while reducing our dependency on innovations from the large corporation. Times are changing, and it's going to be fun.

And with that I bid 2008 adieu and look forward to the excitement of 2009. See you next year.
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