The global economy is in as bad shape as we've ever seen. In the last two months, US consumers have stopped spending money on discretionary items, including electronic gear, prompting this week's bankruptcy filing by Circuit City. Retailers are worried that Black Friday will indeed be black, as holiday shoppers cut back on spending and choose lower-priced cell phones and notebook computers.
Yet despite all of the bailouts and layoffs, most IT industry experts are predicting that sales of computer hardware, software and services will be growing at a healthy clip again within 18 months.
Here's a synopsis of what experts are saying about the short- and long-term prognosis for the tech industry:
1. The global IT market is still growing, although barely
IDC this week recast its projections for global IT spending in 2009, forecasting that the market will grow 2.6 percent next year instead of the 5.9 percent predicted prior to the financial crisis. In the United States, IT spending will eke out 0.9 percent growth.
IDC predicts the slowest IT markets will be the United States, Japan and Western Europe, which all will experience around 1 percent growth. The healthiest economies will be in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
Similarly, Gartner's worst-case scenario for 2009 is that IT spending will increase 2.3 percent, according to a report released in mid-October. Gartner said the US tech industry will be flat. Hardest hit will be Europe, where IT expenditures are expected to shrink in 2009.
Overall, Gartner said global IT spending will reach US$3.8 trillion in 2008, up from $3.15 trillion in 2007.
"We expect a gradual recovery throughout 2010, and by 2011 we should be back into a more normal kind of environment," said IDC Analyst Stephen Minton. If the recession turns out to be deeper or last longer than four quarters as most economics expect, "it could turn into a contraction in IT spending," Minton added. "In that case, the IT market would still be weak in 2010 but we'd see a gradual recovery in 2011, and we'd be back to normal by 2012."
2. It's not as bad as 2001
Even the grimmest predictions for global IT spending during the next two years aren't as severe as the declines the tech industry experienced between 2001 and 2003.