Changing fortunes ahead

The feel-good factor has suddenly returned to an IT industry that endured a tough 2012. Doug Woodburn examines how 2013 is likely to pan out for the sector

By Doug Woodburn

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15 Jan 2013

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With the US having narrowly averted falling off the fiscal cliff - at least temporarily - and the FTSE index breaking 6,000 points for the first time in 18 months, 2013 kicked off with a renewed sense of euphoria.

A day later, Gartner added to the carnival atmosphere by hoisting its IT spending forecasts for the year ahead as it predicted growth in 2013 will far outstrip 2012.

The market watcher's figures confirm that 2012 was a dismal year for the industry, with total IT spending inching up 1.2 per cent to $3.58tn (£2.23tn).

But much of the uncertainty that plagued the market in 2012 is nearing resolution, Gartner said, as it predicted that global spending on hardware, software, IT services and telecoms will jump 4.2 per cent to $3.7tn this year.

That also trumps the 3.8 per cent 2013 growth forecast Gartner issued in the third quarter of last year - although much of the 0.4 per cent increase was put down to foreign currency fluctuations.

But it was not all good news for the channel as the analyst revised downwards its forecast for growth of spending on devices, including PCs, tablets, mobile phones and printers.

Gartner now expects device sales to rise 6.3 per cent to $666bn in 2013, down from its previous forecast of 7.9 per cent, and also lowered its long-term growth forecast (covering 2012 to 2016) from 6.4 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

"It is ultimately this shift towards relatively lower-priced tablets that lowers our average selling prices forecast for 2012 through 2016, which in turn is responsible for slowing device spending growth in general, and PC and tablet computer spending growth in particular," said Richard Gordon, managing vice president of Gartner.

However, this is still significantly up on the 2.9 per cent growth in device spending seen last year.

Meanwhile, enterprise software spending is set to rise 6.4 per cent to $296bn in 2013, driven by spending on security, storage management
and CRM.

Spending on global telecoms - by far the largest sub-sector - will grow by 2.4 per cent

in 2013 to $1.7tn, while IT services spend will swell 5.2 per cent to $927bn, Gartner said. Datacentre systems sales will rise by 4.2 per cent to $154bn, topping the 2.3 per cent growth registered in 2012.

Mixed bag

But with talk of the UK perhaps facing a triple-dip recession, not everyone is as upbeat, and Clive Longbottom, services director at Quocirca, said 2013 would be a mixed bag for the industry.

Recent research from the analyst indicated that two thirds of UK organisations with a turnover of less than £50m expect to see their IT budget shrink in 2013, he cautioned.

Longbottom said: "Once you move up to larger organisations, they have to spend to survive as their IT budgets have been under pressure for three years. They cannot
just sit there and do nothing as they have a backlog of business needs.

"A growth of five to 10 per cent in IT budgets this year still does not take us back to where we were in 2009, although it is welcome news to everyone.

Longbottom predicted 2013 would be the year cloud hype is finally matched by adoption, with big data not far behind.

"Although all the vendors talked about 2012 as the year of the cloud, for corporates 2012 was the year of being shouted at about the cloud," he said.

"2013 will be the year of real mainstream usage of cloud and also the year of wrestling with big data issues. You will see some early adopters for big data and some mainstream adoption towards the end of the year, but 2014 will be the year big data is addressed properly across the organisation."

Richard Gibbons, software manager at VAR Bechtle, welcomed the favourable headlines at the start of the year.

"These positive messages definitely affect customers in a positive manner," he said.

"If the media is saying things are going well, organisations are
happier to spend."

He predicted that the channel is in line for a big PC refresh windfall in 2013, thanks to the launch of Windows 8.

"We are seeing a lot of talk about finally upgrading from XP and Office and Exchange 2003 - organisations are realising that 10 years is a long time. That links into cloud, which a lot of firms are looking at as a more cost-effective and time-efficient way of doing these upgrades. We have had some successful cloud projects but I think this year we will see it take off.

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