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The advent of the cloud and web 2.0 technologies is having a significant impact on the way on the way we buy and build applications. The entire field of application development is changing and it is changing beyond all recognition -- and it's happening very quickly.

Consider Apple and the iPhone. The success of the App Store for the iPhone is nothing short of phenomenal. At the time of writing Apple had just reported more than 1 billion downloads in less than a year's operation -- there are over 35,000 applications ready and waiting for iPhone users to access. Is this the way forward for enterprise applications as well? Who will ever write a Windows application from scratch again?

What an outrageous thing to say! How could anyone possibly think that? It would almost spell the end of Microsoft as we know it!

But what is the likely impact on the business of this phenomenon? And why is this different from what's gone before? Is it just more IT hyperbole?

In 1982, James Martin (ex-IBM) published a book called Application Development Without Programmers that suggested, and indeed promoted, the notion that we were about to see the birth of an applications development approach that would, in some way, eliminate the need for programmers or coding. This was at the time when most computer applications were built on mainframe systems, were executed in batches, and still required (in many cases) punched cards for data input.

As the hardware technology got smaller, faster, cheaper, and ubiquitous through the advent of the "standard" IBM Personal Computer, more "business user" tools became easily accessible and readily available. What was missing though was good, reliable development tools -- ways of simplifying the task of building applications and putting them into the hands of the business. Enter Visual Basic (VB).

Consider what was happening at the time. For example, if you were involved in developing software products and applications for the emerging "client/server" market, one key decision had to be "will I use OS/2 or Motif or Windows (or stay with a green screen VT220)?"

The answer was determined by the advent of VB. Almost overnight it became simple to build Windows applications. Less experienced developers were in a position to build simple applications that met a simple business requirement, on demand. The business didn't have to wait for IT -- they could build simple applications in weeks instead of months or years.

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