'09 IT predictions -- the economy dominates

This year's list of 10 prognostications is overshadowed by the economy, but there's good news predicted for '09 as well

Well, we blew it a year ago on the prediction that last month's US presidential election would lead to historic turnout -- it didn't quite hit that mark -- and unprecedented problems with e-voting systems. The problems, it turns out, were for the most part precedented. On the positive side, we nailed the result, forecasting the election of Barack Obama. Not inclined to rest on that laurel (and a few others we also accurately foretold), we've set forth again to find out what industry analysts are forecasting for 2009, and we've talked to sources as well as to our geekiest friends and colleagues to come up with our own set of predictions for 2009.

Absent from this year's list of 10 prognostications is an entry about Microsoft finally buying at least the ad-search business of Yahoo, if not the whole company. We left that one off the list for next year because we still expect it could happen in 2008. With that in mind and in no particular order:

The economy will limp along

OK, no surprise that the economy is going to dominate the news for at least most of 2009, if not the whole year. There's something to this comment from Gordon Brooks: "I'm convinced nobody has any idea" how long the downturn will last, says the president and CEO of Symphony Services, a product engineering services firm steeped in the outsourcing market. He's been talking to bankers, listening to economists and digesting all he can stomach as he navigates his company through the recession. But we'll edge out on the limb and predict that we'll see signs of improvement by midyear, and go with Brooks' assessment that while the whole of 2009 will be rugged, by year's end an upswing will be under way.

That said, along the way we'll find "a purging of our inefficiencies and of things that had gotten out of whack," as Brooks expects. That can only mean more layoffs, and while IT departments overall are more likely to stumble through the recession in reasonable shape, we expect that some market segments, notably hardware and consumer electronics, are going to be hosed for much of the year. We'll leave particular percentage predictions for growth rates, or the lack therefore, to the analysts such as Fitch, which is forecasting no growth to a 3 percent drop in worldwide PC units as companies hold off on upgrading.

But there's good news

Economic downturns tend to drive innovation and also spur rollouts of new technologies and products to lure users to spend money. This has been particularly true over the years in the DRAM (dynamic RAM) market, where companies are focused on trying to get DDR3 out as quickly as they can. They have to get motherboard, chipset and microprocessor companies on board to support new memory chips, so that's what is slowing them down. But we see DDR3 becoming the new mainstream DRAM chip in 2009.

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