[thelist] What's the outlook

Ken Schaefer ken at adOpenStatic.com
Wed Aug 13 23:10:06 CDT 2003

From: "Diane Soini" <dianesoini at earthlink.net>
Subject: [thelist] What's the outlook

: Hello. I'm wondering about the outlook for this career in
: web design. I think I'm on the verge of obsolescence. I
: can't seem to get any opportunities to gain skills on the
: server-side of things where I work. It seems like the future
: of web work will be writing applications for Microsoft
: technologies. We use Java where I work, and java
: appears to be quite complex and uncommon. I'm
: wondering what you think the future is. I just don't know
: what to do next. I really like the client-side work, but it
: appears that the need for that is fading. So many companies
: can just generate code with content management tools, so
: why bother having a web designer on staff? Why even bother
: with web standards, either, for that matter?

Here's a slightly different take to Ryan's :-)

Personally, I don't see "traditional webdesign" disappearing anytime soon.
However, the ongoing quest to build things rapidly (and hence using
automation) will continue. Whereas before you might have had a full-time
designer designing a site, you can have a CMS system do 90% of the work. Or
your development platform (say Java, or the .Net Framework) will provide the
RAD tools, in-built functionality, and code-reuse opportunities, to allow
you to serve multiple types of clients without a whole lot of custom,
hand-crafted code that you needed before.

Web-design work will still be around - however it'll take less and less
people do to more and more of the work (of course, there will be more work,
so there'll still be opportunities for people to get in!).

Now, "internet technologies" spans such an enormous range of activity (some
of which we can't even begin to conceive as being "the next big thing"), but
I suspect that there'll be two big trends:

a) getting better business value out of existing systems. Over the past 15
years organisations (mostly in the developed world) have invested hundreds
of billions of dollars in IT systems (ERP, and CRM being the latest two big
things) that have delivered enormous productivity benefits. A company like
Dell simply wouldn't be possible without the IT systems underneath that
automate so much of the business process, whilst allowing managers to get
the necessary business intelligence out of them.

The next step is going to be linking disparate systems together (both within
the organisation, and backwards and forwards through the supply chain, and
sideways to business/government partners). You may have heard of something
called "Web Services" (and all the associated acronyms: XML, SOAP, UDDI).
Web Services (plus the abstraction layers that need to be placed ontop of
existing proprietary systems) will be one big growth area. In fact, the
whole industry of linking systems together (Web Services or otherwise) is
going to be an area into which discretionary IT budgets are going to be

b) Building "web based applications" rather than simply web sites. We can
see this trend already, in that websites now allow you to perform some kind
of application-like functionality (such as ordering goods). This will
continue, however most of the work of developing more sophisticated
user-experiences will be internal to an organisation (and to its linked
partners), ie the intranet/extranet type scenarios. In fact, the name "web
based applications" is probably a little bit of a mis-nomer in that a
"web-browser" probably won't even be used in some cases.

Microsoft (for example) is now offering RPC (remote procedure call) embedded
in/over HTTP, which would allow an Outlook user to securely access their
mail, calendar, tasks etc remotely (using encrypted RPC rather than MAPI).
But Outlook itself is a "rich client" that can host other applications (for
example an InfoPath form).

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With respect to some of Ryan's comments (and to some things you've noted
a) I don't think Java is going away. It will, however, lose market space to
Microsoft's .Net Framework. This is merely because Java owned the enterprise
web application market, and it can hardly gain market share. It'll lose some
to the .Net Framework in the same way that *Nix servers lost share to MS
Windows NT Server.

b) I don't think IE will be "dead" by June next year. Where are the dollars
in IT? In medium/large enterprises. Many of these have made a substantial
investment in Microsoft technologies. This certainly isn't going to
disappear in favour of Opera. That's just a laughable statement. IE might
certainly lose some share in the consumer space, but again that would be
because it doesn't really have anywhere to go but down (like Java above)

c) PDA space. Certainly there will be a profileration of various different
devices accessing web-based applications. However, for general purpose work,
we won't be seeing PDA or phone type devices taking over the desktop/laptop
market anytime soon. Laptops have started selling as well (or better) than
desktops (IMHO) because the capabilities of a laptop have reached the point
where they can successfully emulate that of a desktop (screen size, quality,
processing speed), whilst providing additional benefits in terms of
portability without the drawbacks of crappy battery life that we used to

PDAs and phones have large limitations in their form factors that prevent
them from performing the same tasks. I, personally, have two iPaq devices
(including a brand new iPaq 5550), and a Siemens phone running a Java OS
that (for example, is capable of synchronising with my Exchange mailbox).
However, there is no way I could do things on my PDA that I'd otherwise use
my laptop for.

Instead, PDAs, and phones, will be used for niche purposes. Perhaps custom
applications (doing inventory in a warehouse, entering a bed-side patient
diagnosis in a hospital, messaging people at a conference) or for
communications type applications (receiving email, and keeping track of
appointments/contacts). The ability to connect these devices to the
enterprise messaging/collaboration store (Groupwise, Notes or Exchange etc)
or backend application server via wireless (LAN, or some kind of digital
telephony like GPRS) will drive the uptake in the business market.

d) "The uptake of alternate browsers will allow users to move to non-Windows
platforms such as Linux, Mac and BSD, especially since the next version of
Windows will be years in the making."

This I disagree with completely. In the consumer space, enthusiasts will
move to alternate platforms (mostly I suspect, Linux distros). Additionally,
some major vendors may develop their own PC brand combining hardware and
some version of Linux. This may have something to do with cost, and
something to so with an antipathy towards Microsoft. I don't see any major
uptake in MacOS. Mac sales have been static or declining for a long time. I
don't see any radical recovery (because there's no compelling reason why
people should buy Apple Macs). Apple will still be around, and they're
certainly rolling out new services which will (hopefully) continue to see
them profitable.

In the enterprise space however, companies will move to Linux on the desktop
not because the next version of Windows will be years in the making. It'll
be because it makes good business sense. When the management tools for Linux
become the same as what's available in the Windows world (eg Active
Directory/Group Policies) then companies will move. However, whether
companies run Linux, or Windows, on the desktop (provided the same
user-experience/functionality is available) I think is kinda irrelevant to
the issue of web technologies.

e) Standards - are they important? Like many things, the answer is "yes" and
"no". :-)
If you look at products coming from major vendors in all sorts of areas,
what do you see? XML, SOAP, HTTP etc. If you look, for example, at upcoming
Microsoft products: Biztalk Server 2004, Office System 2003 you can see how
pretty much everything uses open standards to communicate. Why? Because a
big future growth area is going to be connecting systems in one organisation
to other systems (especially those in partner organisations). Big customers
are telling vendors that this is their priority area, and vendors are

On the other hand, if we're talking about CSS2 support in a browser, then,
unfortunately, I don't see it as that important (well, not to Microsoft
anyway). The business case isn't there for MS to put the work into it.


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