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 long past, 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, he said, 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, Siebel says. Siebel's explanation for the sharp decline is that "the promise of the post-industrial society has been realized." Three successive inventions — the mini-computer, the PC, and then the Internet — were essentially "total market takeover" products, each wiping out the market for the product before it. No new technological advances, Siebel believes, will impel IT customers to replace the computer technology they now have: "I would suggest to you that most of what's going on today is not very exciting." 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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