On this cusp of a new year, here are few predictions for 2014:

IBM i V5R4 lives on

IBM gave V5R4 a three-year stay of execution in the spring of 2013. If you haven’t yet moved off of V5R4, you’ve got until well into 2016 to do so. That said, do be aware by staying with V5R4 you’ll pay nearly a 60% premium in Software Maintenance (SWMA) over V6R1 or V7R1. The IT Jungle’s Timothy Prickett-Morgan provides a shorter, simpler explanation of the offer here. Alas, my prediction is that if a shop is using V5R4 in December 2013 there is a very high likelihood that shop will be using V5R4 in December of 2014. For many shops getting out of its IBM i comfort zone is quite challenging!

Many IBM i users are yawning at Windows XP’s April 2014 expiration

One more cynical prediction and then on to the happy stuff! Windows XP support official ends on April 14, 2014. You can read the details about that here. I have a strong suspicion that many of our customers don’t think this is a very big deal. My gut feeling is that if you’re using Windows XP right now, you think you’ll be able to use it December of 2014 as well. And that may be the case–we’ll see. But as I said in the September issue of this newsletter, the demise of Windows XP will dramatically affect our ability to provide support for that platform. After April 14, 2014 we’ll not test any of our products on Windows XP. Why? Because we’re not willing to take the risk that Windows XP without regular service packs poses to our network security. We created ASNA Visual RPG 5.0 to solve this problem and strongly recommend customers upgrade from AVR Classic 4.1 to AVR Classic 5.0 before next April to ensure uninterrupted product support. If you haven’t yet, please give your persistence plans for Windows XP some serious thought. We want only good things for you! And we don’t think good things are in store for those who continue to use Windows XP after April 14, 2014.

Mobile on the rise

Just as a roaring forest fire can jump a road or creek, mobile computing has rapidly fanned out from its previously consumer-centric audience to be embraced by the enterprise. Businesses are rapidly learning that mobile computing goes well beyond offering a convenience to end users. Mobile computing redefines business workflows that not only help you keep your business competitive but also have an instant impact on profitability . 2014 is the year when IBM i shops will really take a deep look at what mobile computing can do for them. (And, we hope, seriously consider using ASNA Mobile RPG for their mobile application needs!)

Tablets are mobile devices, too

The units of tablets shipped in 2013 is expected to grow 54% over those shipped in 2012. Although the Gartner Group says PCs will still outsell tablets 2013, it also says that by 2017 tablets alone will outsell desktop and ultra mobile computers (let’s watch this number together, my lunch money is on that happening before we ring in 2016!).  The message is clear that tablets have forged a distinct and important category in mobile computing. For IBM i users, one of the compelling uses of tablets is as a portable IBM i workstation (and, just one more plug!, ASNA Wings is able to do that quite nicely). Beyond that rather special-case use, the increased screen real estate a tablet offers makes them the perfect device for executive dashboard-type mobile apps. It is true that with a responsive app, you could show the same dashboard, chart at a time, on a smartphone. But the tablet’s ability to show several charts at once for comparing and contrasting business results is quite compelling. In 2013, when we talked mobile with customers, that almost exclusively meant mobile on smartphones–but 2014 will see tablets become an important factor of the mobile equation for IBM i shops.

Social media catches on in the IBM i community

Twitter had its public IPO this fall. With an original stock price range projected of $17-20 US, the stock is currently at $56 US per share. There is clearly investment interest in Twitter. For 2013, though, the IBM i community seemed to drag its feet a little on Twitter uptake. However, I think 2014 will be the year when Twitter shines through the social media fog that’s settled over so many IBM i users. Twitter is my number one source of news (that includes computing news, entertainment news, and news news) and it always amazes that so few of my peers in the IBM i community use Twitter. There is a good number of highly-visible IBM i-centric people on Twitter, including the IBM i’s Chief Architect, Steve Will (@steve_will_ibmi). 2014 is the year when the fog lifts and the IBM i community embraces Twitter! (This particular prediction may be less of a prediction and more of a personal wish. But seriously, if you aren’t on Twitter, you are missing out.)

IBM ups the ante for Rational Development Studio for i adoption

I don’t have empirical evidence,  but given my conversations with many customers and a few high-placed insiders over the last year leads me to believe that the adoption rate of Rational Development Studio for i (RDS for i) is very low. Again, I think many IBM i shops are simply being victims of long-established development workflows and comfort zones. In 2014 I think IBM and Rational will take positive steps to ramp up the RDS for i adoption rate. In my fantasy world, part of this effort is to work closely with many of the highly visible members of the IBM i community to help spread the word about RDS for i. Unless they are well-hidden from search engines, my searches for blog posts about RDS for i is mostly for naught (or points to nearly indecipherable IBM gibberish about RDS for i). Will IBM step up the marketing efforts for RDS for i? Will IBM i shops bite? We’ll see.

2014 is the year of the polyglot IBM i programmer

I taught ASNA Visual RPG for more than 13 years. One of the things I thought was interesting during that experience was watching the evolution of RPG programmers. In the very early days, I actually had a few students show up who had never used a mouse before! It was also rare in the early days to find RPG programmers with much programming experience outside their sphere of RPG/DDS/CL. However, by 2005 or so, it was more than likely that you could count on bread-and-butter RPG programmers to have spent at least a little time with Visual Basic. And by then, everyone knew how to use a mouse!

With the widespread adoption of JavaScript (which, despite lingering skepticism by some!) is a full-blown general-purpose programming language (both client- and server-side) and with the advent of mobile computing, some RPG programmers are carving JavaScript notches in their belts. I get the sense that most do so holding their nose–JavaScript is pretty much the polar opposite programming language when compared to RPG. Transitioning programming skills from RPG to JavaScript takes motivation and lots of patience. Still, I know some who have done that quite successfully. With the ever-growing ubiquity of JavaScript and languages such as PHP, VB, and C# becoming more visible in the IBM i community, I think 2014 is the year when many RPG programmers burn the midnight oil not just learning some of these languages but learning to excel in them. And, if you’re one of those RPG programmers holding your nose while you code JavaScript, get a copy of Douglas Crockford’s JavaScript: The Good Parts and learn that there are indeed many excellent aspects to JavaScript!

What do you think will happen in the IBM i community in 2014? Let us know in the comments!