Forecast and Review: Marooned by the market

Web administration expert Tony Northrup laments that the economy has left many IT pros stranded in jobs they don't enjoy.

Web administration expert Tony Northrup laments that the economy has left many IT pros stranded in jobs they don't enjoy. Salvation is a long way off yet, but they can take solace in all the nifty MP3s and video games they'll have to take their minds off things.

1. What do you think were the biggest IT issues this past year?

The economy, the labor market, and IT spending cutbacks. This has changed the IT world dramatically. Nobody had a budget for training or certifications, so people's skills aren't growing nearly as fast as they used to. Many companies had to reduce staff, so each employee now has a bigger workload. The worst part is, these same employees no longer have the option of quitting and finding a better job anymore, either.

2. What do you think the biggest IT issues will be in 2003?

IT budgets will stay low, and I don't expect the labor market for technical people to recover much. I think the focus over the next year will be to squeeze as much as possible out of existing IT infrastructures. I actually expect it to be a pretty dull year on the whole. You can count on some big viruses and worms, and lots of security patches, but that's all par for the course.

3. What do you predict will be the hot technology or technologies for 2003?

I wish I could say "Web services," or "Windows .NET Server 2003". However, I think businesses are going to be really cheap next year -- so don't expect either of those to take off any time soon. While next year will be boring for IT, I think consumer technologies will be really exciting. Consumers are still spending, and they're becoming more and more comfortable with paying for Internet-related services.

First, I think that digital distribution of music, and Digital Rights Management, will continue to take off. This was a hot topic this year, but we're only beginning to see real DRM solutions deployed. In the next year, I think we'll see many more consumers starting to pay to download music. Consumers will become more and more comfortable with the new ways to use the content that DRM enables -- for example, paying less for a song that you can play back on your computer but cannot burn to a CD. Second, I think more people will get broadband to the home. Broadband adoption has slowed, but will pick up when consumers see the new online capabilities of the PlayStation 2 and X-Box. While adoption won't be as fast as it is for online game consoles, wireless home networks and the new category of tablet PCs and Smart Displays will push home computing away from the desktop in the office, and onto the couch in the living room. This will increase Internet usage and the need for an 'always-on' connection.

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