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Looking ahead to 2010 in the IT channel

In 2010 we can hope for a recovery and perhaps a return of sanity, if only temporarily. As always, what does it mean for the channel?

Well, 2009 is over. Not too many of us are likely to miss it. But in spite of government economists telling us the recession is over, how different will 2010 be?

As far as the over-all economy is concerned, the pundits seem to be saying it will be better, but not back to where we were before all hell broke loose in 2008. Now I’m no economic pundit but I think we’d better hope this is true. The main reason we got into this mess was many of us were living beyond our means. Americans were especially foolish in this respect, taking out huge mortgages to buy houses they couldn’t afford, but Canadians weren’t all that much better.

I actually suspect the economic mess has shocked a lot of people into being more sensible with their money, and that will last for another year or so. Then the lesson will be forgotten and we’ll do it all again.

But this is CDN, not The Economist. So what about the IT industry?

The major research firms are cautiously optimistic. IDC says PC shipments will grow about seven per cent this year after falling around three per cent in 2009. Gartner is more optimistic, forecasting in November that 2009 shipments would actually be up 2.8 per cent over 2008 and calling for a 12.6 per cent increase this year.

IDC Canada, in its annual predictions in December, forecast growth in software and services in 2010, and also said the telecom sector – which showed the only growth in 2009 at about one per cent, will chalk up around four per cent growth this year.

In fact, the good news for the tech sector has been that this, while worse over-all than the recession of 2001-2003, at least wasn’t a tech-led recession.

So there are some positive signs. Windows 7 appears, so far, to be a better operating system than Vista, so some computer buyers who had been holding back may decide to take the upgrade plunge. Mac OS 10 Snow Leopard, also a better operating system than Vista, has made gains thanks in part to disenchantment with the Microsoft offering.

The next big thing is small. Netbooks are the hot hardware category and look like remaining so through 2010. Some manufacturers deny they’re cannibalizing sales of full-sized notebooks – I think they hope if they say that often enough they can make it true. David Allen, North American director of distribution sales for Intel, says they’re taking no more than 20 per cent of the notebook market. Twenty per cent is hardly nothing.

Netbooks are a good alternative for many purposes, and while they can complement larger machines, they’ve got to hurt notebook sales somewhat, especially when money is tight. But count your blessings: At least something will sell well.

And other small electronic gadgets, from smart phones to e-book readers, are where most of the excitement is these days. People get excited about iPhones and Kindles. There was a time when you got that kind of excitement about PCs, but that was back when Nortel was Canada’s great technology success story. Now RIM has taken over that mantle – or at least it’s one of the obvious claimants – and that tells you something.

Anyway, here we go. 2010 should be a bit better than 2009. Let’s see how it goes.