IDC’s Top 10 Tech Predictions for 2011

In a tradition as ingrained and heady as a toast at midnight, every New Year begins with a deluge of predictions. It’s refreshing that many of the prescient claims this year are optimistic, albeit guardedly, after so many years of recession-cast gloom and doom.

“To play off Coca-Cola’s slogan, the recession was the pause that refreshes,” said Bob Parker, vice president of Research for Manufacturing and Retail Insights at IDC.

Parker said that while business will resume at a brisker pace, it will not be business as usual, i.e. businesses will not simply pick up where they left off and march forward as previously planned. “IT productivity has increased by 30% in the last 10 years so companies are ditching their previous project plans and looking instead at lessons learned in order to write new plans that will deliver the same or better productivity increases.”

Many of those productivity gains came from virtualization, consolidating ERP and outsourcing. “Since this is not a case of dusting off projects but rather a drive to rethink IT strategy” enterprises are looking to improve on those gains by leveraging social media, knowledge management, mobility and cloud computing. Interestingly, while cloud adoption will soar, its first casualty is predicted to be the buzzword “cloud computing.” He gave no clue as to what the replacement term is likely to be.

Unless companies develop position papers now on those three things — social media, knowledge management, mobility, and cloud adoption — efforts to move forward are likely to become confused and ineffective, says Parker. “It’s an evolution, not a revolution, and you have to be ready to turn the dial one more time,” said Parker.

True productivity increases depend on mapping advancements on these fronts as well as leveraging virtualization and consolidation beyond that which has already been done.

The biggest shift coming up is “movement from embedded to exposed technologies.” Embedded technologies, Parker said, is defined as “the back-office stuff” while exposed technologies face the customer. “What will be interesting is watching the patterns emerge in single, separate or merged approaches to embedded vs. exposed. Such may vary by industry, of course.”

The lines between traditional CIO and CTO roles will become increasingly blurred as a result of these evolving patterns, he predicted.

In general, according to the 2011 predictions team at IDC in its annual gaze into the crystal ball, a select group of disruptive technologies
— cloud, mobile devices and apps, broadband connectivity, social networking, and analytics –“will move beyond early adopter status, maturing and coalescing in 2011 into a ‘new mainstream’ platform for growth both for the IT industry itself and for the industries it serves.”

IDC predicts 80% of new software offerings will be available as cloud services and a full third will be purchased as such. The report makes the claim that the winner of the battle to create the next killer business app in the cloud “will have a chance to become the next Microsoft.”

IDC analysts offered these 10 key predictions for IT:

Spending – Worldwide IT spending growth will be a solid 5.7% as hardware growth moderates and software and services spending rebounds.

Emerging markets, led by China, will continue to drive global IT spending growth, with 2.6 times the growth rate of developed markets, contributing over 50% of all new growth. Emerging markets will drive disruptive new design points for the whole industry.

Cloud – Public and private cloud adoption will surge and “cloud computing” (as a buzzword) begins ready to fade.

Cloud-driven datacenter transformations will pick up speed, with continuing integration of datacenter systems and “stacks,” the arrival of “cloud ready” enterprise software, and a rising focus on service providers as strategic customers.

Mobility – The mobility explosion will continue with huge device volumes, new form factors, and millions (yes, millions) of mobile apps. The PC-centric era is over. Within 18 months, app-capable non-PC devices will out ship PCs. Emerging markets could disrupt Apple’s lead. Online media, apps, and services delivery “stores” are the most strategic real estate for the next decade and beyond; the implications go way beyond mobile apps.

“Intelligent industries” will put mobility and social networking to work to capture the surge in mobile shopping, lay the groundwork to support the explosion in mobile payments, and enable next-generation healthcare.

Connectivity – Broadband networks will struggle and innovate to keep up as 4G wireless networks crawl to market. Ethernet exchanges mitigate wired bandwidth squeezes, and content delivery networks (CDN) gain clout.

M&A – 2011 will be a year of consolidation and convergence for social business software vendors as well as a year of strong social networking adoption growth for SMBs.

Big Data – The expanding digital universe –reaching 1.8 trillion gigabytes — will drive demand for cloud-friendly information infrastructure and real-time analytics for “big data.”

Web TV – The IT and media industries will aggressively position for consumers demanding “I want my Web TV!” with Web-connected TVs, a battle among media/entertainment clouds to be your next (virtual) cable company, and explosive growth in mobile advertising.

If you’d like more detail on any of these predictions, follow this link to a series of IDC webinars on their 2011 outlook.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker’s published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine,, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).