Predicting the next 12 months of development in the fastest-growing medium in human history is no small feat, but some of the more ambitious players in the Web development community have put their hands up to help ARN out with some forecasts.
The adoption of broadband is being tipped as a major change in the Web development community over the next 12 months. This is because the applications and Web sites that software developers will create will be a great deal more advanced than what is appropriate for a standard modem connection. The Federal Government and the country's major carriers have been under increasing scrutiny, urged to promote and charge lower connection rates for their services and many developers are hoping the next 12 months will see some action on the broadband front. It allows the developer to be more creative, use some of the tools becoming popular in overseas markets and differentiate themselves as a result.
"I expect to see broadband work start to really bite," said Brian Walshe, manager of Digital Media at Praxa. "There are plenty of people talking about it, but there is not enough take-up to start building solutions specifically for it. Broadband is a very different environment for the developer."
Walshe equates increasing bandwidth with confidence in new services such as application service provision and digital media streaming.
"It means more customers for us as people start to actually deliver on the ASP model rather than just talk about it," he said. "And video on demand will become a very, very hot item as bandwidth becomes available."
Marius Coomans, managing director of Firmware Design, is the sole distributor of Allaire products and was also the first distributor of Macromedia products in Australia. He believes 2001 will see some significant changes in the Web development space.
Coomans characterises the last 12 months as being the year corporate Australia adopted the Web as a legitimate part of its business. Subsequently, budgets for Web development rose considerably because management began to see the strategic value in moving out of "brochureware" and into conducting business on the Internet.
"Next year we will see a continuing shift in the skills and tools needed to make Web sites become the front end of a business," he said. "We'll see an increase in integration services, the genuine programming that connects accounting systems and customer databases to the Web. These systems are common among corporations but I think next year they'll become more mainstream and available to SMEs. This will really broaden the Web development market and put continuing stress on the skill sets of developers."
Similarly, managing director of PEG technologies Bruce MacKenzie predicts the interface and design of Web sites will become less important and the business process behind them will come under greater scrutiny.
"I think there will be a rationalisation of sites in regard to business process," he said. "They will spend more time focusing on how the business will work with the Web. Hence process engineers will become more important than the people who do the bibs and bobs of the site."
As a distributor of software development environments, Coomans said he can no longer run a profitable business simply by moving a box off the shelf and is looking at education, training and support services for designers and developers to add value to his distribution business. At present, these services account for about 15 per cent of Firmware's revenues, but Coomans is expecting this figure to rise significantly as more resources are pushed into these areas.