10 IT predictions for 2010

Whither the tech economy, mobile mania and Oracle/Sun?

No doubt, a leading IT story in 2010 will be the role that sector will play in the expected economic recovery, as well as how IT markets themselves recover. OK, so that's a no-brainer to predict, but we're latching on to some more specific details in that regard, and we've found a limb or three to walk out on as well. In no particular order we present the 2010 edition of our annual predictions.

Special report: Looking back at 2009, ahead to 2010
Special report: Looking back at 2009, ahead to 2010

We enter recovery

The global economy will limp into the first calendar quarter of next year, with IT playing an important role in the recovery, which will be modest in 2010. Although we don't expect much to happen until midyear as far as jobs creation and hiring, a whole lot of us are in need of new gear since purchases were deferred since late 2008, so hardware will lead the way in IT spending, with mobile telecommunications also important, particularly in developing countries.

IDC is forecasting 3.2% global IT spending growth, returning to 2008 levels of some $1.5 trillion, with emerging markets driving more than half of the projected growth. That sounds about right.

As for IT jobs, Foote Partners research leads analysts there to forecast for the U.S.: "We believe IT hiring overall will not pick up noticeably until late next year, and more likely 2011, despite recent GDP upturns and recovering stock prices in our nation's third straight year of economic instability. Expect the length of the tail on this staffing lag to be much longer than previous economic recoveries."

The needs that companies have for employees with very specific skills will continue to be the focus, Foote Partners predicts, which means training as well as outsourcing and offshoring, along with using managed services.

Apple bites into e-readers

Apple's tablet/e-reader will be unveiled to great spectacle and fanfare in the first quarter of the year. Throngs will stand in line for long hours to be among the first to possess what we predict will be the device to which rivals aspire. Because it's from Apple, it will have a cool design and user-friendly interface, and cost a load of money.

In other Apple news, AT&T's contractual gridlock on the iPhone will be broken, with Verizon entering that lucrative market as Apple eschews future U.S. exclusivity deals, ahead of regulators imposing rules forbidding that sort of mobile telecommunications contract.

Paging Jerry Yang

Carol Bartz will be out as Yahoo's CEO by the end of 2010, as the company continues to struggle and tries to reinvent itself, renewing its focus on technology rather than marketing and branding schemes. (But if the company is still keen on marketing and branding, we would recommend ditching the !.)

Oracle finally gets Sun and other M&A news

The Oracle-Sun Microsystems deal will close. Mindful of not incurring excessive wrath from the open-source community, Oracle will not kill off MySQL. Instead, it will be inserted into a stack along with Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, pitted against Microsoft SQL Server.

In a related story, to compete with Oracle as it continues on its acquisition trail, SAP will make a major hardware-centric acquisition of a U.S. company that has been a bit down-on-its-heels of late.

In other acquisition news, someone will come along by year's end (Yahoo maybe?) and buy Aol once and for all, successfully merging its content and technologies and quietly dropping the once-mighty brand off the face of the Internet.

And 2010 will be the year Palm is acquired -- our bets are on Microsoft or Research In Motion.

Google gets taken down a notch...

Google will finally stretch itself too far beyond its search engine roots, irritating content providers, regulatory agencies and users enough that Bing, even though it's also run by a monolith for whom love is not lost in many quarters, will keep making search inroads just because people want another option. The company that had as its mission to do no evil will increasingly be seen as devilish, leading top executives to spend more time than ever on image control, especially as it faces more lawsuits aimed at slowing its reach and power and its proclivity to challenge copyrights.

...And so does Intel

The U.S. Department of Justice will file antitrust charges against Intel, with state attorneys general joining in while the U.S. Federal Trade Commission pursues its own action against the chip maker and the E.U. keeps up pressure there as well.

Mobile mania

Google will release its own Android phone in an increasingly competitive market. By the end of 2010, more enterprises will embrace iPhone use, although RIM's BlackBerry will still be the platform of choice for companies that have to be more concerned about security issues.

But because "for most mere mortals, you can manage an iPhone reasonably securely," to quote Mort Rosenthal, chairman and CEO of Enterprise Mobile, Apple will increasingly intrude on the enterprise, whether network administrators like that or not. "I think probably the biggest story for the foreseeable future is how enterprises will manage an increasingly diverse market, with a lot of platforms, that meets a threshold of security," says Rosenthal, whose company specializes in mobile-based messaging implementation and business applications use in the enterprise.

"From a user perspective, this is all good, but from an IT perspective this is challenging," he says, predicting -- and we agree -- that 2010 will bring many of those challenges to a head for IT managers.

Oh, and one more prognostication in the mobile realm -- the launch of Windows Mobile 7 will be pushed back to the first quarter of 2011.

And speaking of security

There will be a new "largest ever" data breach involving e-tailers and a major payment processing company.

E-readers will give hackers an inviting new target, especially as the devices are opened up to third-party application development.

Meanwhile, we think that Websense Security Labs is making a sound prediction that "2010 will prove once and for all that Macs are not immune to exploits."

We also find ourselves intrigued by the Websense view that botnet gangs will engage in "turf wars."

"In addition, we anticipate more aggressive behavior between different botnet groups including bots with the ability to detect and actively uninstall competitor bots," Websense said.

Social networking grows up

This assessment from Foote Partners rings true for us: "Social media may have started out as a fad but it is quickly winning serious corporate converts. The search will intensify in 2010 for IT specialists who can engage audiences in their company's messages, products and services."

We also envision that companies will more actively encourage employees to use Facebook, Twitter and MySpace in those regards, and to focus on the collaborative aspects of social-networking sites. This will, of course, continue to present a security conundrum, but 2010 will be the year that best practices for use of those Internet-based sites take hold.

Online publishers figure a few things out

With e-readers the hot gadget of 2010 (and Apple's entry into that market), revenue-generating models will emerge in online content. The Comcast-NBC Universal deal, which will close next year, is just the beginning of mergers and partnerships in that market. Rival publishers will join forces, particularly in mainstream news media, and by year's end multiple new ventures will emerge that will upset the old carts and usher in -- finally! -- forward thinking. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. will continue to challenge Google and other aggregators and will lead the way in developing online news and content models, though we are not yet convinced that Murdoch's desire to charge for access to online news across his various holdings is going to pan out.

However, the online news and content landscape will look a lot different at the end of 2010 than it does at the end of 2009. To borrow from Monty Python: It's just a flesh wound! We're not dead yet!

Chris Kanaracus, Nancy Gohring, James Niccolai and Martyn Williams contributed to this report.

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