A good post from my colleague Bill Dollins about the state of the desktop GIS:
I pretty much watch Esri from a distance these days but, even from my perch, I can’t see any workflow that doesn’t involve desktop software at some point. It’s simply still crucial to the editing and publishing of maps and other geospatial content.
That’s even true outside of the Esri world. My team lives in QGIS. As of this writing, QGIS is at version 3.4.4 and it’s hard for me to make a case that I need to use anything else, aside from convenient proprietary hooks to other systems and workflows. We do have a lone ArcMap instance for the production of MXDs, but we make heavy use of FME so we can produce data in even the most proprietary of formats if needed, without consuming a license of anything additional.
In our universe we work so much with creating data, QA, cleaning, packaging, and analysis that desktop GIS is (as Bill says) still critical to the workflow.
I would add that I’ve been very impressed with the state of the QGIS product in my recent usage of it. It’s amazing that with community development, time, and step-by-step progress, an open source developer community can build such a powerful product. Of course QGIS is also underpinned by dozens of super-powerful libraries that are amazing utilities in and of themselves — GDAL, Proj4, GEOS, and more.