Reading IT's Tea Leaves for 2009

There's no shortage of forecasts for the coming year. We've compiled a slew of predictions -- including the idea that some unemployed IT pros may soon turn to life of crime. That particular nugget comes from security vendor Finjan. While it's no stretch to say that cybercrime will rise in 2009, Finjan put a spin on its cybercrime prediction, saying the growth will occur "with an increasing number of unemployed IT professionals joining in."

Meanwhile, an increase in unemployed IT pros seems inevitable, according to the latest poll by CDW. Among 1,059 IT decision-makers polled between Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, 11% said they expect staffing decreases in the next six months, compared with the 5% who reported the same expectation in October.

IT budget cuts, too, are in store, according to several sources. Perhaps the most dire spending prediction so far is that of Citi Investment Research, which is forecasting that U.S. corporate IT spending will plummet 10% to 20% in 2009.

The fallout from such restricted IT budgets will include the unraveling of social networking, predicts Vince Kellen, senior consultant at Cutter Consortium.

"At the risk of offending Web 2.0 enthusiasts, most firms, especially those hardest hit in this recession, consider social networking speculative and in some cases frivolous. To engage in speculation and innovation requires some staff time and some extra cash," Kellen says. "My guess is that many of these projects have been put on hold and related staff have been reassigned or let go. Only the few strong ROI social networking and Web 2.0 projects will continue."

Another casualty of the poor economy will be capital spending among service providers, which may decrease by more than 10% next year, potentially crimping the sales of major IT equipment vendors, according to investment firm UBS.

Still, software spending will grow by 6.6% in 2009 to $244.3 billion, Gartner predicts, revising downward its previous forecast of 9.5% growth. Companies will delay or even cancel SOA projects, but software aimed at optimizing how organizations are run, such as business process management and master data management will fare better, Gartner says.

Scores of pundits also are predicting growth in cloud computing. IDC goes so far as to say Google will acquire Salesforce.com or another software-as-a-service applications ecosystem -- and that Cisco will be thinking about doing the same.

On the equipment side, wired switch port sales will decline for the first time in history, predicts Yankee Group. The research firm links the decline not to the economy, however, but to the popularity of wireless networks: "The acceleration of wireless LAN deployments will cause a slowdown, and ultimately a decline, in wired network switch port sales by the end of 2009," Yankee Group suggests.

Also set to decline for the first time since 2001 is the mobile phone market, which ABI Research estimates will shrink between 3% and 5%. "Replacement rates will be squeezed, and new subscriber adoption in emerging markets will slow perceptibly, resulting in a tough year for mass market handset vendors," the firm projects.

Meanwhile, after years of being regarded as the "ugly stepchild" of unified communications (UC), video is poised to take off in 2009, says Yankee Group, which predicts that video-enabled business processes will be born in 2009.

"Videoconferencing has grown steadily as a replacement for travel due to green benefits and lowered travel costs, and this year will see the full emergence of this trend," Yankee Group reports. "In fact, video will actually vault to the forefront as the lead for UC in many deployments."

Other technologies on the upswing include thin client technologies and tiny notebook computers.

"Thin-client deployments on the back of desktop virtualization will gain traction in 2009, and further accelerate into 2010, as PC replacement cycles peak across the region," IDC predicts. The research firm expects thin-client shipments will grow 12% to 15% over 2008 levels, to about 765,000 units in 2009.

DisplaySearch is predicting a surge in demand for mini-note PCs, which it describes as "low-priced, thin and very light (less than 3 pounds) products that provide at least a modicum of typical office software functionality and also enable greater mobility."

Demand for mini-note PCs will be driven by a variety of sources, "including early adopters, consumer and enterprise PC customers seeking a smaller or secondary notebook PC, as well as new PC customers in emerging markets," says John Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch.

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