1/14/2017 8:20:58 AM
What app development technologies we missed in 2016 and what's coming next
JavaScript Apps,Chatbot Development,React NativeAngular 2
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App Developer Magazine

What app development technologies we missed in 2016 and what's coming next

TJ VanToll TJ VanToll in Enterprise Saturday, January 14, 2017

It’s that time again to look at the year ahead and consider what trends and technologies will reign supreme in the application development world. As mobile apps become the main driver of accelerating digital transformation in businesses, more developers and vendors are focusing on the latest technology needed to excel. But with developer tools and languages evolving as fast as they do, it can be difficult to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of the latest and greatest before what is “cutting edge” becomes an industry standard.

Earlier in 2016, Gartner predicted in its Magic Quadrant for Mobile App Development Platforms that by 2020 more than 75 percent of enterprises will have adopted at least one app development platform to accelerate their digital business transformation strategies. The same report found that apps “are at the front line of the digital revolution.” 

As mobile apps become the main driver of accelerating digital transformation in businesses, more developers and vendors are focusing on the latest technology needed to excel. But with developer tools and languages evolving as fast as they do, it can be difficult to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of the latest and greatest before what is “cutting edge” becomes an industry standard. 

Of course, sometimes these trends don’t exactly pan out as expected, so it’s important to remain wary of the hype. Some technologies that are highly anticipated aren’t fully realized as quickly as many organizations may have thought, thanks to an overly ambitious timeline or simply an unrealistic outlook. 

Here is a recap of some of the tech trends that didn’t make as big of a splash as predicted going into 2016, and early thoughts on which 2017 trends will go the distance.

2016 Flops 

AI tools need to show their true potential 

First up: Artificial intelligence (AI). With the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, AI is gaining traction and has a promising trajectory. But currently the main setback is that these AI-based platforms aren’t useful for third-parties to program against. 

For example, when Apple announced that Siri extensions could be programmed in iOS 10, developers were really excited by the potential of what doors this opened. But how many people are actually capitalizing on the opportunity? Are people really going to trust Siri to send money to other people via PayPal?

Rather than providing asked-for use cases, the current AI offerings still lack the serious clout needed for people to trust these human-helping tools. 

Web components polymer 

Web components polymer (championed by Google) is another technology that has yet to experience widespread adoption in app dev circles. For reference, web components is a technology meant for building reusable web widgets. Polymer is a library that builds on top of the web components specification. 

At this point Polymer and web components have been heavily pushed by the web community for more than five years, but we’ve still yet to see this push translate into actual adoption by web developers. Considering it has been more than five years since web components were introduced, with such little garnered enthusiasm, this isn’t a trend that will move much in 2017. Other frameworks will remain far more popular moving forward.

While these trends didn’t fulfill the potential that many believed was possible in 2016, they certainly will continue to build momentum in the years ahead. What trends are set to take center stage in 2017? 

2017 Trends 

Massive growth of Angular 2 for larger enterprises

Throughout 2017, look to see a massive growth in the uptake of Angular 2, Google’s full-platform successor to the Angular 1 web application framework. We know that Angular 1 is already quite popular at large enterprises like Apple, Tesla, Google and AT&T, and we see a large demand from developers looking to upgrade to version 2 in the coming months. Enterprises are also adopting TypeScript, Microsoft’s free and open-source programming language, at a speedy rate, and we don’t see that stopping any time soon.

React + React Native gain support in startups and consumer-based apps   

It’s no surprise that startups and enterprises generally favor different types of development languages in order to build the most practical, seamless apps for employees and customers. For startups and large consumer based-applications (think: Netflix and Walmart) in 2017, expect to see a large adoption of React and React Native

React is a small framework compared to more fully featured libraries in the web world, like Angular, Ember and Aurelia. That means that in order to use React, developers typically have to piece together a number of other community-built tools in order to build a web application. This is not necessarily a negative: Small companies and startups often prefer having complete control over their architectural stack, and choose to configure React and its dependencies to meet their application’s needs.

Angular, in contrast, is a complete web application frameworks that includes most of everything you need to build apps. This structure tends to appeal to larger companies that want to consolidate on tools they believe will remain stable for years to come.

Android and iOS no longer deploying separately 

In the past few years, cross platform tools have infinitely improved. As such, it will be almost inexcusable to deploy Android and iOS at different times in 2017. Pokemon Go had one of the biggest success stories in cross-platform deployments, and more companies will take note and work to bring both Android and iOS apps to market at the same time. 


The potential outlook for chatbots is exciting. This is an area that is ripe for innovation: Thousands of companies are building chatbots to figure out which use cases stick and which don’t. The year ahead will be a make-or-break year for chatbots, and we will be able to tell if they are worth the investment. 

JavaScript continues to take over the world

The use of Javascript by developers has been skyrocketing and there is no sign of stopping. With mobile phones getting better at running the language natively, developers are able to use it to create some of the best quality apps. As adoption continues, we’ll see more JavaScript developers and fewer native developers in the space. Full stop. 

App dev then and now

While you can never be 100 percent sure which application development trends will get traction in the coming year, one thing is clear: The technologies that do live up to the hype all have one thing in common – making it easier for developers to create smart, seamless and intuitive apps to drive digital business. 

Sure, things like AI are exciting, but it’s not what really resonates with the developer community. The speed of change within the industry is fast and furious, and at the end of the day, as applications play an increasingly important role in the digital business economy, developers are looking for the practical, realistic trends that make them more efficient and effective in their roles.

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