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Gartner: Growth coming after IT's worst-ever year

Expect 3.3 percent growth to $3.3 trillion in 2010. Also, Gartner releases fresh buzzwords: "context-aware computing" and "pattern-based strategies."

ORLANDO, Fla.--Information technology spending is set for a rebound, but not much of one, Gartner said Monday.

Globally, worldwide IT spending should grow 3.3 percent from 2009 to 2010, said Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of research, in a speech here at the Gartner Symposium. That puts it at about $3.3 trillion.

Even with Gartner's forecast, spending won't return to 2008 levels until 2012, he said. But purveyors of computing technology and services can be forgiven if they take some heart in the news given the gloomy climate.

"The IT market is exiting its worst year ever," Sondergaard said, with spending dropping a projected 5.2 percent from 2008 to 2009. More than half of IT budgets will be the same or smaller in 2010.

Among various segments, the hardest hit is computer hardware, with a 16.5 percent decline to $317 billion in 2009 and flat spending in 2010. Telecommunications technology should drop 4 percent in 2009 to $1.9 trillion, then grow 3.2 percent in 2010. IT services should drop 2.1 percent in 2009 to $781 billion but grow 4.8 percent in 2010.

Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of research
Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of research Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Some of the computing world is settled, but Sondergaard pointed to three areas of change where IT staff are focusing intently: business intelligence, the collection and analysis of detailed business data; virtualization, which makes computing infrastructure more efficient and flexible; and social media, which will spread beyond the techno-savvy.

"Social not just about digital natives," Sondergaard said. "This is about all client segments. The most significant population is (people) above 60--the silver surfers."

Searches on Gartner's Web site reveal what's on the minds of IT staff. Cost has been a top concern--but in a signal of some optimism, searches relating to cost issues peaked in May, he said.

Rising in search popularity is cloud computing.

"We've seen a steady rise in cloud services. This is probably the most important topic for users to understand," Sondergaard said. In 2010, many will move from the discovery phase to small pilot projects, and from there to small initiatives, he predicted.

But not all is revealed in search. Gartner sees some big themes emerging:

• Context-aware computing, in which people receive IT services tailored for specifics such as their location and social network details.

• Operational technologies, a network of sensors and software that will bring a large number of devices such as medical equipment into the computing world.

• Pattern-based strategies, in which technology can ferret out heretofore undetected signals and leading indicators that can inform company decisions.

"We have perhaps gone through the most challenging times in our careers," Sondergaard said. "We must change--and change fast."