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Businesses The Almighty Buck IT

Are Information Technology's Glory Days Over? 333

Posted by timothy
from the incentives-attract-takers dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that computer science students with the entrepreneurial spirit may want to look for a different major, because if Thomas M. Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, is right, IT is a mature industry that will grow no faster than the larger economy, its glory days having ended in 2000. Addressing Stanford students in February as a guest of the engineering school, Siebel called attention to 20 sweet years from 1980 to 2000, when worldwide IT spending grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 17 percent. 'All you had to do was show up and not goof it up,' Siebel says. 'All ships were rising.' Since 2000, however, that rate has averaged only 3 percent. His explanation for the sharp decline is that 'the promise of the post-industrial society has been realized.' In Siebel's view, far larger opportunities are to be found in businesses that address needs in food, water, health care and energy. Though Silicon Valley was 'where the action was' when he finished graduate school, he says, 'if I were graduating today, I would get on a boat and I would get off in Shanghai.'"
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Are Information Technology's Glory Days Over?

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  • Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @07:50AM (#29001603) Journal

    It's just obvious. The reason for IT's growth during late 90's and early 2000's was because it was new, great technology. Now its getting common.

    In Siebel's view, far larger opportunities are to be found in businesses that address needs in food, water, health care and energy.

    This doesn't really make sense. IT has lots of opportunities too. Its true that "sure ways to get rich" times might be over, but its not like the other indrustries have those anymore.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

      by linhares (1241614) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:15AM (#29001679)
      You're right on mark. Of course there are diminishing returns for those working on "classical" areas, like sysadmins, or IDE development, etc. But that does not mean that the industry as a whole is stabilizing; that's bullshit: we have nothing close to AI, we are just starting the überphone revolution; we are just entering the high-bandwidth computing era with 1080p, GPGPU for all, etc; there are whole new frameworks of interaction in the web, like html5 (and the idea of openGL in the browser is popping up), Adobe Air, etc., and things are improving in each of these areas.

      Let's not forget that computing is now accepted as a new way of doing science--going beyond experiments and theorizing (and way beyond what we can do with mathematics in complex, highly interacting multi-agent systems. Data mining is exploding; just take a look at Freakonomics and there you have it: a hotshot economist who does nothing but interesting data mining.

      Then along comes this suit and brings this stupid false dichotomy: because there is demand for other stuff, like food; demand for IT is stabilizing?

      I am from Brazil (thank you for your sympathy) where global demand for food will probably benefit our economy (and hurt other industries like IT, due to a rising currency), but seriously, WTF? The only news here is that this dude cannot reason very sharply and shouldn't be invited again.

      • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:33AM (#29001751)

        >Data mining is exploding; just take a look at Freakonomics and there you have it: a hotshot economist who does nothing but interesting data mining.

        Yes, but what was he first? A computer programmer or an economist? He was an economist first who happened to learn how to use a computer. That is the way that the industry is shifting.

        The industry is stablizing for those that are general programmers. And what is opening are specialized niches of people who understand the business and the computer. As I work in a hedge fund I cannot imagine any fund these days not having quants or algo-programmers at their disposal. Guess what I did about 4 years ago? I switched from being a general programmer to a specializing quant/algo-programmer.

        If I had to advise somebody today I would say learn a field first, and then make sure that you can write the code in that field. That is the best combination. Could you first learn the code and then the field? Well sure you can, but business will prefer the other guy first. After all most companies and people in the field don't really care about the code anymore. After all most of the code these days is written in "very safe" languages where it is hard to shoot yourself in the foot.

        • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

          by linhares (1241614) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:59AM (#29001837)

          The industry is stablizing for those that are general programmers.

          Oh, [slashdot.org] is [androiddevelopment.org] it? [google.com] I [apple.com] missed [adobe.com] that [cnet.com] memo [numenta.com].

        • [quote]And what is opening are specialized niches of people who understand the business and the computer. As I work in a hedge fund I cannot imagine any fund these days not having quants or algo-programmers at their disposal. Guess what I did about 4 years ago? I switched from being a general programmer to a specializing qua[/quote]

          I beg to differ. There's been a need for computer programmers who understand business and accounting since before the PC was born. IBM has made their business on providing comput

        • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rossifer (581396) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @11:36AM (#29002761) Journal

          If I had to advise somebody today I would say learn a field first, and then make sure that you can write the code in that field. That is the best combination.

          This approach to resume construction is limited to a (potentially very small) subset of the software development jobs in the market, and is therefore riskier than keeping your general development skills sharp and learning new domains as needed.

          Could you first learn the code and then the field? Well sure you can, but business will prefer the other guy first.

          This assertion is interesting. I think there's more of a blended balancing of concerns than you're thinking about, and in my experience, knowing how software needs to be developed to work in the real world (whether embedded, desktop, multi-tier, SAAS, whatever) is the really hard stuff to teach, where the relevant business details are usually pretty straightforward. Again, in my experience, being expert in a kind of software is of more importance than the specific domain, though having experience in both aspects of a particular job will obviously be better than being experienced in only one.

          In your case (and here's where I think the confusion lies), you're not doing the same variety of "stored data shuffling" that most of the rest of us do, your code is much more analytical and algorithmic. It's quite possible that you're actually doing what a CS degree prepares BSCS graduates to do (extremely unusual in my experience). That means that your "kind of software" is algorithms, so being an expert in that kind of software development IS the more general skill for you. I would personally label that set of skills as distinct from the specific application domain (fixed income, market predictors, risk analysis, etc.).

          Further, I absolutely think you're being short-sighted if you're not keeping up to date on other aspects of software development so that if demand for your current skills declines, you can still return to the larger market of software developers. In late 2002, as I was looking for a job in a crap market, I sent applications to both coasts (New York and Los Angeles) feeling that I could interview strongly for jobs in finance or in the various kinds software being developed in LA. I got offers from both coasts and I'd like to think that it was because I successfully argued that my fundamentals were strong and I could quickly get up to speed on anything that was missing.

          I have no idea what's behind Siebel's statements. In my continuing experience as a software developer and as someone who's hired software developers, he's completely full of it. I suspect that, like many others who hire software developers, he's frustrated by the price he has to pay for highly skilled people (the 10x developers) and he's just venting. He's entitled to do that, of course. I'm just as entitled to ignore him.

          After all most of the code these days is written in "very safe" languages where it is hard to shoot yourself in the foot.

          Out of curiosity, which languages are these? I've been writing commercial software for 15 years. I try to learn a new language each year (ruby in 2006, php in 2008, python in 2009). But I currently have very little idea what "more safe" or "less safe" mean when describing a computer language. Any pointers?

          • by rossifer (581396)
            So, after reading the article (ahem), I think he did a surface analysis of some inaccurate numbers and is simply wrong. When looking at the growth of the world's economy in 2008, it was slower than previous years. Does that mean that there weren't any opportunities? No. You just have to look at more specific numbers to figure out where the growth is.

            There are still plenty of software products and services to be written. If you want to have a shot at making a bundle of money, write one of those produc

          • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

            by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @02:34PM (#29003857)

            Out of curiosity, which languages are these? I've been writing commercial software for 15 years. I try to learn a new language each year (ruby in 2006, php in 2008, python in 2009). But I currently have very little idea what "more safe" or "less safe" mean when describing a computer language. Any pointers?

            the safer languages have no pointers.....

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ekhben (628371)

            Out of curiosity, which languages are these? I've been writing commercial software for 15 years. I try to learn a new language each year (ruby in 2006, php in 2008, python in 2009). But I currently have very little idea what "more safe" or "less safe" mean when describing a computer language. Any pointers?

            "More safe" would imply language features designed to limit the scope of your mistakes. The language features that I see most commonly causing whole-application errors are memory management, typecasting,

      • by hitmark (640295)

        in other words, the pure computer job is saturated, but the computer aided jobs are still out there.

        thats something thats been bothering me for some time. We seem to have overspecialized, and therefor miss out of eureka effects that come from people mixing knowledge in one area with knowledge in another. Basically, there are to many ivory towers, striving to build towards the heavens in their own focused ways, when they would get there faster if they joined forces with 3-4 nearby towers and turned them into

        • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

          by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:45AM (#29001787)

          I disagree here...

          You have chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and system engineers. Very different and very specialized. Is there some overlap? Sure a bit, but generally very unique and very different. I am a mechanical engineer and that means anything that moves belongs to me. Civil engineers ensure that nothing moves, and system engineers ensure that the project moves.

          But there is nothing wrong with specialization since with specialization we have a mature industry and we are moving forwards.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            Of course one thing that computers are really good at is engineering. In fact the easiest areas to apply artificial intelligence are in engineering, especially molecular engineering. Give the computer the problem and let it iterate through possible solutions, whilst a person might make an intuitive leap or stumble upon a solution through serendipity, the computer is relentless, calculating solution after solution until through, evolutionary based engineering, it finds the optimal solution, whether it take

      • by ErikZ (55491) *

        What's wrong with Brazil? Last I heard their economy was doing great, building huge cities, and developing an incredible cattle industry.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross.yahoo@ca> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:28AM (#29001733)

      No IT is actually mature. And with a mature industry there are less opportunities.

      BUT, what also can be said is that without IT there is no industry. IT is at the heart of every industry, and hence the focus has changed. Namely you would focus on the industry and make sure that you know IT.

      So if you were to seek out a niche in energy, good for it, but you better know how to use a computer, and potentially write a program.

      And if you are going to do IT, you better learn a programming langauge that can be applied to a specific industry. For example I am in the financial industry. And I am not having a hard time looking for work. Why? Because I am act as a junior trader. I know how to place trades, watch the market and manage my positions. And on top of it I can write all of the data mining routines that our hedge fund needs.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Znork (31774) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:11AM (#29001867)

      The reason for IT's growth during late 90's and early 2000's was because it was new, great technology.

      Actually I'd say it was because the cost/benefit ratio came within reach for a large number of applications that could benefit from IT solutions. Computers had already existed for a long time, but replacing phones, typewriters and hordes of analysts, accountants and other 'manual-IT' workers with computers that'd do the same job for a vastly higher price wasn't very useful.

      This doesn't really make sense. IT has lots of opportunities too.

      Indeed. IT for ITs sake has never been much more than a scam. IT is something you use to address various needs. In, for example, health care, where IT is vastly underutilized (systems to assist medical diagnosis, to prevent misdiagnosis, track drug interaction to a larger extent, computer assisted surgery, etc, etc). If other fields have opportunities, IT has opportunities in those fields.

      Growth rates may become more tied to specific industry segments, but that's because most of the current useful things that 'everyone' was doing, communications, bookkeeping, typing and presentations, wont experience the same mass-affordability and cost/benefit threshold traverse anymore. But the fields that do grow are likely to also do so through IT improvements, in everything from food and water logistics, farm automation, healthcare IT, smart energy usage/production, etc.

    • Uh, no.

      All this stuff works, right? No intervention necessary. Nothing needs upgrading. Nothing new under the sun.

      Fie.

      Great stuff is happening all over the place as the world gets networked together. Consider the evolutionary, rather than revolutionary products-- and there is room for revolution. The iPhone proved that mobile/cell phones suck. Netbooks are causing a mad race in the evolution of notebooks. Bluetooth, Zigbee, and other short haul devices are just now blossoming (and being continually misappli

    • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @05:31PM (#29004991)

      Pretty much that. It was never really a "booming" industry. It was just that greedy VCs thought that the internet is the next big thing and that somehow you can make a lot of money with it, that everyone is gonna buy everything online if it's just being offered. In the dot-com craze they dumped insane amounts of money on everyone who managed to spell out TCP/IP without any major accidents, no matter how harebrained or outlandish his idea. Actually, the more outlandish, the more money you could attract.

      The only big opportunity was a lack of huge global players that you have in the other industries. When you try to create a pharma research startup, you're pitted against LaRoche and Pfizer. Trying to get a food industry off the ground is near impossible with opponents like Nestle and Kraft.

      If you look closely, the companies that are today "global players" in the internet market all rose to power during the dot-com days. Amazon, Google, EBay, they all were founded between 94 and 98 and grew huge in the dot-com times. The market gets smaller. If you want to do something "big" today, you have to find space in the ever smaller getting market because more and more "turfs" are held by global players.

      So in a way it's true that IT and internet industries have grown out of the gold rush times. The market has been split up and divided. The Web2.0 startups show, though, that there is still room if you can come up with a new idea, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all came along long after the dot-com bubble burst. Whether they'll ever make what they cost, well, time will tell. But there's still room for "something new".

      But the times when VCs throw money at you just 'cause you know that TCP/IP isn't the acronym for the Chinese secret service are over.

  • by Overunderrated (1518503) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @07:53AM (#29001613)
    In other news... Thomas M. Siebel is no longer being asked to come speak at colleges.
  • by Norsefire (1494323) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @07:57AM (#29001625) Journal
    If everything anyone ever said about IT and computers came true, we would all have 640K memory.
    • by VampireByte (447578) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @10:28AM (#29002327) Homepage

      At age 15 my college plan was to major in computer science. This was in 1978. My father had me meet with some people who worked in the field. They all told me to find another interest, that by the time I graduated from college there would be nothing to do... all the computer programs would be written, all maintenance would be automated, etc. Lucky for me I snicker at crusty old fuckers, ie. anybody 20 years older than my current age.

  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @07:58AM (#29001629) Homepage

    if I were graduating today, I would get on a boat and I would get off in Shanghai

    So you'd be in a foreign country with no visa, no local language skills and no experience in any professions. I'm guessing his business is going downhill too.

    • by koxkoxkox (879667) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:42AM (#29001781)

      Why is it moderated as troll ? It is NOT good advice to tell people : "China is where the business is, go there and you'll be rich".

      Think about the reasons why a company would want to hire you instead of a local engineer : you don't speak mandarin well, you don't understand the culture, you often ask for a bigger salary... Some people do really well in Shanghai, but it is not easy.

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <[bassbeast1968] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @11:27AM (#29002703) Journal

        While this is true, the simple fact is IT will die a slow death, just as our manufacturing and auto manufacturing has. Why? Free Trade is a lie. Your company can't compete with a Chinese one, because we don't allow you to poison us and fill our air, water, and land with toxins, yet thanks to 'free trade" you are supposed to. You can't compete with an Indian who pays only 20K for a Master's degree, yet thanks to H1-B and "free trade" you are supposed to pay off your 100K in student loans and survive on the same wages he does.

        The IT industry will be gutted, just as so many others before it, because our treasonous lawmakers keep taking bribes from foreign nationals and multinational corporations while spouting off about "free trade" but it is all a lie. The corporations will simply give the IT jobs to their H1-B slaves or if not allowed to import more slaves will simply move to places like India and China, where they can pay a pittance and pollute all they want. Yet they will be given the same treatment as those who actually pay their taxes and manufacture here in America. Wake up and realize free trade is a lie! Notice how they will label this and anything that actually supports hiring Americans "protectionist"? Yet countries like India and China would never allow this kind of crap, they are too nationalistic to fall for it. India is building their own Aerospace and defense industries now so they won't have to import from countries like us.

        Anyone who goes into IT now is simply a fool. They are a fool because they will never be able to compete against the Indian and the Chinese, yet thanks to "free trade" they will be expected to, and to live on their wages. Free trade is a lie.

    • I'd moderate this insightful had I not run out of points. The simple fact is that unless you are already established in a business, and you just want to extend your reach - your supply or possibly customer chain - your best bet is to stay in your own country because you have years of experience of living there. I'm not a fan of Western triumphalism, far from it, but anyone who thinks that there are fortunes to be made just by emigrating should look at the real history of the growth of the US. Many of the pe
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WCguru42 (1268530)

        ... California is suffering economically. Despite the apparent opportunities of boundless land, minerals and eventually oil, the East leveraged its installed base of civilisation, knowledge and business relationships to stay dominant.

        You do realize that in a listing of "World" economies California bounces between 6th and 7th. That would take three eastern states to match (NY, PA & NJ) assuming that you're talking north-eastern and not including Florida, then it's only NY & FL. And talk about leveraging power, without California there would not be a single democratic presidential candidate in recent history. Most of California's economic woes come from social programs such as one of the nation's highest minimum wages, increas

    • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @11:35AM (#29002757)
      Exactly. It is often true that the WORST thing you can do as a new job-hunter is to follow these mega-trends. I've seen people waste huge amounts of time by telling themselves "CHINA is where it's at!!!" or "computers are the next big thing!!!" or "aaah, everybody ELSE is getting a degree in the culinary arts!!!" (lol)

      If I was, today, to look at myself in the mirror and decide that I was born to manufacture buggy whips, I would move in that direction in the smartest way I could. Maybe that means I would make props for movies, or maybe that means I would end up moving to a small town where they hold buggy-driving contests every year. But with what I know now, I would never say, "China is the next big place" and just park myself there. Some of my worst career moves have been the result of exactly that sort of thinking.
  • Sigh (Score:5, Funny)

    by XPeter (1429763) * on Sunday August 09, 2009 @07:58AM (#29001631) Homepage

    It seems as if the only tech job left is SysAdmin; I wonder why that spot is always left open...

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Keruo (771880) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:18AM (#29001687)

      Because you need to have certain personality to become great SysAdmin. You cannot be too introvert, nor extrovert. You need to be social enough to provide sufficient local tech/application support to the rest of the staff, and still "geek" enough to handle the more technical aspects of the job.

      In a sense, good SysAdmin is like successful project manager, you must schedule tasks and prioritize them, if possible allocate tasks to jr. sysadmins. If done properly, IT becomes invisible in most organizations. (and you have more time to read slashdot)

      Patience is also a virtue. If you can tolerate stupid users and explain the same thing 10 times over, you will succeed.

      Theres not much glorious in SysAdmin job actually. Most sysadmins are underpaid, underrespected and rarely loved, but still our love for the technology (or sufficient amounts of single malt after hours) keeps us doing our thing and keeping the industry running.

      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Funny)

        by Informative (1347701) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:22AM (#29001915)

        Theres not much glorious in SysAdmin job actually. Most sysadmins are underpaid, underrespected and rarely loved, but still our love for the technology (or sufficient amounts of single malt after hours) keeps us doing our thing and keeping the industry running.

        That should be modded "poetic", or something.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Spit (23158) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:39AM (#29002015)

      I've been a sysadmin for a long time. As long as you like tech and know how to do your job, you'll be fine. There are a lot of shit admins out there, for a while the ratio of good sysadmins was quite low which makes your job all the harder, you have to pick up the slack. But when you've got a good team, it's a great job.

    • The role of sysadmin has changed. In some places a sysadmin would build out PCs, help users with opening Word docs, fix network issues. This still happens, but in a lot of places, the sysadmin role is much more specialized and broader in others. We have to work with the business users, manage budgets, act as vendor liasons, architect solutions.

      Whereas cron may have been good enough a few years ago, we now have beefed-up schedulers. SANs, geographically disperesed DR sites, 24-hour operations, etc.. A while

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tres (151637)

      Don't know whether this was a rhetorical question or not. Either way, it is an excellent observation.

      I'd say that there are two big reasons that those SA openings are there.

      The first, (and obvious reason) is that people don't really want them as much. Having worked as both a full time Systems Administrator in a end-user setting, a datacenter setting and a full time Developer, I can tell you that end-user sysadmins are the blue-collar of the IT world.

      Working as a datacenter SA is a much better job, but still

  • by tommeke100 (755660) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @07:59AM (#29001633)
    > businesses that address needs in food, water, health care and energy

    guess which field in these businesses will address those challenges? the Information Technology field is my guess.
    • by linhares (1241614)
      Exactly; shit like Geographical Information Systems; Operations Research; Data Mining; AI, etc., have a looong way to go to fulfill these needs.
  • Kondratief cycles (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    At some point, the efficiencies of a new technology will be fully achieved. Then it's time for a new technology.

    I would say microcomputers have largely gone through their cycle. The internet not so much.

    • Re:Kondratief cycles (Score:4, Interesting)

      by linhares (1241614) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:35AM (#29001761)

      I would say microcomputers have largely gone through their cycle.

      You are very funny, dude.

      When you look at this [hothardware.com], you probably see an effing ugly gaming laptop. I see a massive supercomputer [gpgpu.org] that you can throw in a bag, something capable of outshining anything CRAY had 10 years ago for millions of greenbacks.

      The only thing is that there are no killer apps YET for a beast like this; when a killer app for something like this comes along, we are in for a thrilling ride.

      • A netbook and a cheap desktop with a few extra graphics cards in it is waaaaaaay cheaper. Do you really need disconnected operation?

  • Siebel sucks.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordKazan (558383) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:06AM (#29001653) Homepage Journal

    Well considering his creation - siebel - is one of the biggest steaming piles of crap i've ever seen... why would i listen to him?

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Golly, I sure didn't see that coming. What is you superior achievements in life that lend weight to the opinions you express when giving invited lectures at Stanford?
      • by Alex Belits (437) *

        Even if the poster spent all his life in his mom's basement posting to /b/, he would achieve more than Siebel.

        Because Siebel is an epitome of "let's write a lot of code for insipid, unusable applications for overhyped purpose".

    • Re:Siebel sucks.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SoupIsGood Food (1179) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @11:07AM (#29002569)

      If you work at Siebel, you wear a tie, and if you interact, at all, with anyone outside the company, a suit and tie. There are standards about facial hair, permitted jewelry (no piercings unless you're a woman), etc, etc, etc. The dress code is joyfully and rigorously enforced on the programmers and IT staff. There are also very strict codes of conduct - no nerf wars, no toys in your cube, punctuality rules (no coming in at noon, no working past five without asking your manager's permission, etc.)

      Siebel is a good businessman, but he hates the IT industry, he hates the people who work in it, and wishes it was more like the insurance industry or something. This sort of speech from him is no surprise.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:08AM (#29001661) Homepage

    His explanation for the sharp decline is that 'the promise of the post-industrial society has been realized.'

    Evolution and transformation in technology doesn't happen on a linear time line. It goes in streaks, followed by times where the previously disruptive technologies retrench and normalize. That lasts until the next transformative technology comes along.

    Just because we're in a phase of technology normalization doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. I think he's taking kind of a short view of tech history.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Evolution and transformation in technology doesn't happen on a linear time line. It goes in streaks, followed by times where the previously disruptive technologies retrench and normalize. That lasts until the next transformative technology comes along.

      Do you get paid by the buzzword?

    • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @10:10AM (#29002221)
      James Bessen and Robert Hunt did some interesting research at the federal reserve. What they found is that software patents tend to substitute for R&D. The study shows that over a 20 year period, investment in R&D suffered a major decline, apparently to finance software patents, patent searches, litigation and the like.

      That might be a better explanation for the decline in IT perceived by Siebel. Or, maybe Siebel isn't happy with his patent portfolio.

      You can find that study here [repec.org].
  • good riddance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:11AM (#29001671)

    Siebel is absolutely right: IT's "glory days" are over. And good riddance, I say: the spectacular growth of IT has attracted all the wrong people and stifled real innovation. And "all the wrong people" includes people like Siebel himself.

    If there is less of a get-rich-quick mentality, maybe people can return to focusing on innovation and long term planning again.

    • Re:good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pelrun (25021) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:38AM (#29001771)

      Exactly - he's only talking about people with "entrepreneurial spirit", i.e. those people who only care about getting as filthy rich as possible, as fast as possible, and not about working in an industry they enjoy. If they all decide to piss off to China then good luck to them.

      • Re:good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by elnyka (803306) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:36AM (#29001987) Homepage

        Exactly - he's only talking about people with "entrepreneurial spirit", i.e. those people who only care about getting as filthy rich as possible, as fast as possible, and not about working in an industry they enjoy. If they all decide to piss off to China then good luck to them.

        Your definition of "entrepreneurial spirit" is very, uhmmm, strange to say the least. It is as if "getting as filthy rich as possible" and "working in an industry they enjoy" were somehow mutually exclusive. They are not.

        As surprising as it might seem to you, it isn't a black and white thing. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who make it big in doing what they enjoy. And entrepreneurial spirit is not necessarily driven by the desire of (what some ideological tards consider as) obscene financial success. If you are a good entrepreneur and do something that you like well, financial success will almost inevitably follow.

        Surprising, I know!

        • by speedtux (1307149)

          The most successful entrepreneurs are those who make it big in doing what they enjoy.

          I have no doubt that the people who have created Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Delicious, and all that "enjoyed" doing what they were doing. But that doesn't mean that they made great contributions to IT or technology.

          It is as if "getting as filthy rich as possible" and "working in an industry they enjoy" were somehow mutually exclusive. They are not.

          Well, actually they kind of are: there are only so many hours in the day, a

        • by Lennie (16154)

          I think it's a bit different.

          Their are a lot of people who would like to: "get as filthy rich as possible" and fail completely because they also don't know jack about it and don't want to put in any effort.

          And their are people: "working in an industry they enjoy" and do really well (maybe even filthy rich), because they do put in the effort and actually do know their shit.

          Atleast that is what happends most of the time, if you ask me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by elnyka (803306)

      Siebel is absolutely right: IT's "glory days" are over. And good riddance, I say: the spectacular growth of IT has attracted all the wrong people and stifled real innovation. And "all the wrong people" includes people like Siebel himself.

      If there is less of a get-rich-quick mentality, maybe people can return to focusing on innovation and long term planning again.

      Yes, yes and yes.

      Now, if we mean "maturity" to imply solid work processes and repeatable methods (as in the physical engineering disciplines), then certainly not. Not just IT, but software development in general is far from being mature.

      However, I see Siebel's point in that IT has reached maturity in the sense no one can pull the kind of crazy shit spending we saw a few years ago. An IT shop can no longer afford, for example, to spend half a mil on hardware just for experiment and see if it works, not w

    • On the one hand, I agree. Personally, too much of what I do is influenced by business leadership who have no personal insight as to what is good technology, yet insist on demanding certain technical decisions based on flashy demos rather than merit. I would be fine working with experience business leadership, or leadership willing to delegate, but we have too many business leaders that come for the high-growth business without the experience, and in order to make themselves feel relevant, attend technolog

  • by Koookiemonster (1099467) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:12AM (#29001673)

    Technical progress often takes the form of a repetitive S-curve [stevens.edu] [see figure 4 in the .pdf] It could be that we're just in a somewhat horizontal part of the curve now, and the industry will experience another boom in the near future.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Or, maybe it won't experience another boom in the near future.

      I look at aerospace from 1900 (the Wright brothers) to 1970 (landing on the moon) - amazing! Now I look today, and we're still flying airframes from 1970, at the same speeds and altitudes for the most part.

      What also amazes me is that the Internet revolution has made me (and many others) radically more efficient in my job over the last 10 years, yet hasn't translated to higher pay for people in the industry at all.

      • by Lennie (16154)

        It is because their doesn't seem to be anyone interrested in funding: bigger, faster, further, better

        Maybe more efficient, but not radically different.

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        That's more because there's no economic or military need for things like semi-ballistic flight, etc. We're flying the airframes of old because they're making big payoffs still for the people using them.

        As for higher pay for people overall...it has to be earned, like everything else. What? You want to be paid like a Doctor or Lawyer? You need to make yourself WORTH that much- just like the Doctors and Lawyers have.

        • by ErikZ (55491) *

          Actually, there is a economic need for supersonic flight.

          However when so many governments of the world create laws banning supersonic flight over their airspace, you stop advancing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
        And yet, if you want a job in aerospace, you can still find it. All these people crying about how IT is a "dying industry" are fearmongers, nothing more. Yes, we all know that IT isn't the gold mine it used to be... but to those of us who work in the field because we love the work, that doesn't matter. We're doing what we love, not trying to run a get-rich-quick scheme.
  • by pooh666 (624584) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:19AM (#29001689)
    So since we are now in the business of moving information around, what need is there for IT? Is he kidding? Post Industrial also is another stupid term for service economy which is another way of saying the middle class is dieing because the jobs that supported it best are now overseas, but that is "ok" These are the clues I see to say this guy isn't worth listening to seriously.
  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:31AM (#29001741)

    I'm glad someone has the balls to say it: Universities are still pumping out IT graduates into an already crowded job market. It's like these kids have shown up to the California Gold Rush after all the gold has gone. IT has well and truly jumped the shark. There will still be jobs, but not enough to support the hordes of unemployed IT people out there. The parties over. Sorry you didn't score, but it's time to go home anyway.

    But fear not, because Uncle CuteSteveJobs has a backup plan for you: Biotech. Bioinformatics is a new are and lets even little old you try and crack the genetic code. Hunt through DNA. Discover proteins. Build new drugs, all on your PC. Open source your discoveries, or sell out to Big Pharma.

    You'll need to learn a bit of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics. Take heart: It's said Bioinformatics is closer to IT than it is to either of the former. Think of it as learning another language. That .NET isn't exactly cutting it these days, is it?

    You'll be curing people and doing far more to help the world. And it's a lot more useful than doing another useless social networking website. Let me help you get started:

    1. Download Chimera (It's free!)
    https://www.cgl.ucsf.edu/cgi-bin/chimera-get.py?file=win32/chimera-1.3-win32.exe [ucsf.edu]

    2. File > Fetch by ID > PDB=1BGX [Fetch] ...wait... Actions > Atoms & Bonds > Show Only ...rotate with mouse...

    3. That molecule is a polymerase. It can run down a DNA chain, unzip it, and build a protein as it goes. Yes, a little protein nanomachine? How cool is that? And to think you wanted to write web sites instead. C'mon. Try doing something useful! ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pooh666 (624584)
      Yet where I work, we can't find enough people. Why? So few are able to really learn on their own and most jobs these days are a mixture of tech. So if you are a DBA, you are instantly not qualified at a lot of places, if that is really all you are.
      • You hit the nail on the head. About three years ago I gave a BOF at a conference, where I said that classical IT is dead. I was scoffed at, made fun of and considered completely clueless. NOW I laugh my head off.

        The issue that you are having is the same issue that many companies are having. They want their IT to know about their business. Each business has its special needs and generalists are not wanted. Specialists are wanted... Though I am completely happy since I had the clue to adapt while the adaptin

      • Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:56AM (#29001829)

        ...we can't find enough people. ... So few are able to really learn on their own...

        Bullshit. Either you're in east buttfuck or your company has unreasonable expectations. I bet the latter.

        I bet your company has the laundry list of a shit load of skills and yet, if a candidate walked in and told you that they'd learn on their own time any skills they don't have, you'd send them packing.

        I had once an interview with a manager who asked me what would I do if I had to change a technology or something on the job or make up for lack of a skill. I replied that I would head down to my local Border's (they have the best tech section) and buy a book and start cramming. He said that was the correct answer. He moved on before the hiring was done and they got a new manager who wanted the laundry list. Of course, he says "He can't get enough "qualified" people.

        There are plenty of qualified people. You people just need to get your heads out of your ass and hire people not skills. Because, if you keep that up, your organization will never keep up with the times.

        IBM used your excuse and it was just a cover to move all their technical people overseas.

        • by pooh666 (624584)
          And I am sure you would be a pleasure to work with! :) Other than your attitude, your ability to go out and read a book and learn, is in fact rare. I work for a company that does 100% telecommute BTW.. The problem as I see it is companies are indeed desperate to get bodies, so they hire people who have certs for the sake of being able to say they hired 40 new IT people and that should cover the load, when in fact it was more like hiring 4 really good people. It isn't BS, and you should feel good about your
    • by MrKaos (858439) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:25AM (#29001931) Journal

      1. Download Chimera (It's free!)

      Ahem! you could have pointed to the download page [ucsf.edu] where you can download it for a variety of platforms.

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      3. That molecule is a polymerase. It can run down a DNA chain, unzip it, and build a protein as it goes. Yes, a little protein nanomachine? How cool is that? And to think you wanted to write web sites instead. C'mon. Try doing something useful! ;)

      Very interesting - thanks - and it's a whooooole lot less complicated than the innards of the Windows kernel.

      btw - it runs good under linux too!

    • by ErikZ (55491) *

      Creating molecules using Polymerase and DNA is very cool, but I'm having trouble coming up with a goal where biological chemicals are the answer.

      And it's not science until you can actually *make* the chemicals and test them on something.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        > I'm having trouble coming up with a goal where biological chemicals are the answer.

        Proteins are the language of cells. Many diseases have a basis in this messaging going wrong. You could e.g. create a protein molecule that seeks out incorrectly operating cells and patches their DNA, or simply finds the errant protein and binds with it or even changes it.

        There are tools for designing molecules on your PC:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_Design_software [wikipedia.org]

        In practice if you did design an uberdrug on y

  • In the 1990's I had the interesting experience of speaking with a number of IT folks about why they chose this field. They said that they looked at job listings, found an industry with high-paying job offers listed, and selected it solely on that basis.

    If it's leveling off then great! Leave technology to those of us who have a passion for technology. Even better, as we head into middle age, we won't have to worry quite as much about competing for jobs with 20somethings who are willing to work for half a
  • I always used to judge the general well-being of the I.T industry by how lavish the christmas parties were. In the good years there were parties on yachts, triple hull catamarans with a live band and a dance floor large enough for a lot of people, parties on the 50th floor of some luxury hotel as opposed to of late christmas parties where everyone had to chuck in to afford it.

    It's rather obvious to say 'water, health and food' are the growth industries because what human on the planet does not require thos

  • by Doofus (43075) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:43AM (#29001783)
    Siebel's comments were apparently uttered without any supporting homework. A glance at a graph does not a studied analysis make.

    From TFA:

    But the recent drop is not as steep as it seems at first. I asked Shane Greenstein, an economist at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management who has written extensively about the computer industry, to take a look at the raw data upon which those numbers were supposedly based: the annual I.T. spending estimates published by IDC.

    Mr. Greenstein's calculations produced a more moderate compounded annual growth rate of 11.6 percent for 1980 to 2000, instead of 17 percent. (Mr. Siebel's personal assistant said last week that the 17 percent in the Stanford talk came from a staff member who calculated from a reading of a chart, not from precise figures.)

    When Mr. Greenstein looked at the full IDC data set, which goes back to 1961, and used other breakpoints to compare growth in earlier and later periods, he found that the most golden years of I.T. were in the 1960s, when use of mainframe computers spread widely. From 1961 to 1971, the compounded annual growth rate was 35.7 percent, more than three times the rate in the 1980-2000 period celebrated by Mr. Siebel.

    The article goes on to point out the obvious, that the percentage growth of an industry will decline as the installed base rises over time. Absolute growth in IT will continue - though it may not be gangbusters of old, IT will never be stagnant.

    As other posters here have pointed out, many, (many) industries depend on the support infrastructure that IT provides to work effectively and efficiently. This will not change overnight. While some of this infrastructure has been substantially commoditized over the last 10 years or so, there will always be challenges that non-technical team-members cannot solve themselves. These challenges will require the participation of and collaboration with technologists in organizations that want to function at the high-performance end of the bell curve.

  • IT is dead. Windmills are the future. At least, this week. Next week it may be back to biofuels.

  • Short sighted (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lurker412 (706164) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @08:49AM (#29001805)
    Utter nonsense. Siebel's view may have some merit when applied to those business problems that have largely been solved--payroll, HR, general ledger, etc. But as technology advances (and business models change), there will be entirely new areas for IT and consequently, IT employment. There may not be much growth in the existing job positions, but those who understand computer systems will have opportunities that we simply can't imagine yet. Stay tuned and stay the course.
  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:04AM (#29001847)

    . . . like the one which made Siebel his fortune. I'm an ex-enterprise software sales guy myself, and have many friends still in the business, some of whom worked for Siebel "back in the day" and have been on sales calls with Siebel (the man, not the company) himself. Most are of the consensus that the "glory days" are indeed long behind us (as in ten years behind us). In fact, one of my mentors recently told me, "enterprise software is dead." I certainly wouldn't tell a young college grad to go get rich selling software to big companies these days (though maybe to the federal government). It's easy to understand his myopic statement when you consider his background (former Larry Ellision disciple and ex-Oracle guy who pioneered selling "value selling" CRM apps into big business for mega dollars).

    Here, however, Siebel is ignoring continuing advances in computing hardware, raw processing power and storage (multi-core architectures, SSDs, 64-bit OSes and gobs of fast memory, and other things which software has yet to really take advantage of), as well as other related things like nanoelectronics and continued innovation in materials sciences. The software just hasn't caught up yet to allow developers to take full advantage of these things and build out the next generation of applications.

    In short, the more connected our world becomes, and the more people inhabit it, the more data we will create. There will always be a needs to collect, organize, and process this data, and attempt to draw meaningful conclusions from it, because that is what people do when they try to understand the nature of things. Perhaps IT from Siebel's world view (first generation enterprise software applications) is on the downslope, but I guarantee you that within the next decade you will see new ways of working with information that Siebel and co. could never have imagined.

  • by hamburgler007 (1420537) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @09:11AM (#29001869)
    After the bubble burst, back around 2001, and students started focusing on economic related major and getting their mba so they could go into banking/wall street. That worked out great.
  • As a multitime CTO, I can assure you now that IT is now "just" another business arm.... it is hard, boring, unrewarding and accusatorial. Overly accountable, ultra bureaucratic, under-resourced and now infested with leaches. On my 17th year in this gig, I gave it up for online retail? Why? PROFIT.

    Pay me 180k as a senior tech guy working bullshit hours with bosses who are basically fuckwits, retarded morons who call themselves "programmers" and useless sysadmins.... or give me decent Human hours, a GREAT

  • So post-industrial society looks a lot like pre-industrial society? A deer, a stream, a tepee and a fire?

  • 1. Every movement comes to recognize its Golden Age. It is always found to have been the earlier times of the present majority generation.

    2. The same will be true of the next generation.

    3. Someone may claim from outside the movement that this this Golden Age is past. They will be wrong, despite #1 still being true.

    4. Proof that this apparent contradiction is correct will come when #2 comes true, who will in turn have to contend with the outside claims as in #3.

    5. When the generation in #2 faces the problems

  • by asifyoucare (302582) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @10:47AM (#29002445)

    How can anyone argue that the current crappy state of the industry is mature?

    Imagine a high quality yet practical computing world, even constrained by today's hardware, and see the distance from today's industry. In my high quality world adding, removing, and moving applications between servers (or just associating an application with a named group of servers) would be easy and built in to the operating system, which would offer an API and standards to the applications. Applications would be isolated from each other by the OS - no more DLL or shared library soup. Operating systems would provide very robust backups, not relying on identical hardware for a successful restore. not even mucking around with a few /etc files, and not relying on third party backup apps and 'agents'. Applications that were difficult to backup and restore would be swiftly rejected by customers.

    Applications would be written to work well over a WAN, instead of thoughtlessly sending a metric crapload of data over the network. Developers and vendors would code to standards, and vendors would work in good faith with standards bodies.

    VMWare and Citrix are excellent applications, but there ought not be a great need for them. Much of the need comes from defects elsewhere.

    Anyway that's my list, and I'm not even scratching the surface. I'm sure many of you have your own lists of what is clearly wrong with the state of the industry today.

    Am I mad or are mostly everyone else?

  • IT spending will explode again when IT starts actually doing what it could. Right now, we give people hammers to replace their rocks. Someday, we'll be making robotic hammers/manufacturers. Then IT will boom again.

  • "if I were graduating today, I would get on a boat and I would get off in Shanghai."

    Here's a protip for Mr. Siebel and all those people who are sending their kids to chinese lessons: the chinese aren't any more likely to give you a good job than you would a chinese getting off the boat. It's not like they're starved for people willing to work. So you'd better get off your ass and innovate over here instead of playing patent and copyright games.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @11:39AM (#29002779) Homepage

    Of course.

    Consider aviation. Aviation had an age of rapid advance from about 1910 to 1970. In those sixty years, aviation went from the Wright Brothers to the Boeing 747 and the Apollo program. Every decade completely obsoleted the aircraft of a decade earlier. Then, suddenly, it was all over. Advances since then have been minor compared to any ten-year period in those first sixty years.

  • While im sure others will say the same thing:

    Back in the early 90's personal computers in business were "new fangled shiny objects" and here to save the day. People didn't understand them, or what impact they would have, but they wanted one and needed a team of 'strange people' to babysit the horribly expensive little devices.

    Today, they are 'toasters'. Simple appliances that help you get work done, and when they break, you get another. The are no longer the end all to be all, and many even make their own

  • by Danzigism (881294)
    Another thing that concerns me are MSP (Managed Service Provider) programs. They are technically essential for IT Vendors to come up with effective solutions to monitor all their clients' workstations and servers. If you have hundreds of clients all with anywhere from 5-50 workstations and a couple servers, you need an effective way to monitor them. Some of you may have heard of the "Kaseya" software. Being heavily promoted by the marketing expert Robin Robins who easily sways dorky IT guys in to spending T
  • by Anonymous Meoward (665631) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @02:29PM (#29003827)

    My employer insists on retaining an outsourcing group in India. The code we get from them is of marginal and inconsistent quality. This is probably because most of their developers are in it only for the money (and probably planned on moving on before the global economy tanked), and some sadly deluded executive over here really thought that cost-cutting constituted a business strategy.

    We really do get what we pay for. But guess which groups do NOT get new feature development or requirements specification as tasks anymore?

    As a younger man, I used to rant about management's willingness to accept crap code so long as it worked. These days, I just smile, knowing full well some jackass across the ocean (who probably now hates his job) is keeping me highly valued and very busy.

  • singularity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swell (195815) <jabberwock@poetic. c o m> on Sunday August 09, 2009 @06:07PM (#29005219)

    While it is nice to program systems that provide faster sorting, more efficient network traffic and better inventory analysis, I have to ask: is this what you really want to do? You could get rich with an algorithm for better commodities price prediction, but many are tearing out their hair trying to do the same thing. And the work can be tedious and ultimately almost certain to fail.

    If you really must work in tech, what can you do that will be worthwhile, that will satisfy your soul?

    Why not begin the singularity? Why not create the first computer that will see a path to it's own improvement and help you to build it? Generation after generation of ever smarter computers that design their own (improved) offspring...

    It could make you rich, it could get you killed, but it will certainly get you into the history books.

    Computers & robots working together to eliminate all the thinking and back breaking labor that humans tolerate today. Each generation smarter, stronger, better than the last. Kurzweil's singularity come to life.

    On the down side you put every IT worker out of work. On the up side, no human thought or toil is ever needed again. You have made us free to watch TV and drink beer all day long.

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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