Infrastructure, Software and IT Services are Hot Spots
While overall industry growth has cooled, some areas of tech spending are heating up as businesses in mature economies including the US and Western Europe, begin to invest in overdue infrastructure upgrades and replacements. Spending on servers will increase by 3%, after last year’s decline of 4%, and storage spending will also grow by 3% this year (following a 0.5% decline in 2013). The PC market is showing tentative signs of stabilization, with improving commercial shipments in mature markets. The increased pace of hardware investment will have a positive effect on IT services revenue, which is forecasted to post growth of 4% this year (up from 3% in 2013). Enterprise software spending remains broadly strong, with growth still expected in the range of 6-7%. Excluding mobile phones, IT spending growth will actually accelerate in 2014 from 2.9% last year (excluding phones) to 3.4% this year.
Emerging Markets are Volatile
Exchange rate volatility is likely to exert a strong influence over IT revenues for global suppliers this year (in US dollar terms, the IT market grew by just 2.8% in 2013, compared to 4.8% in constant currency, due to the strength of the dollar). It’s too early to predict whether the dollar will remain strong throughout 2014, but the Fed’s decision to begin tapering its QE program will clearly exert a strong influence in the first half of the year. Not only will this create volatility for IT vendors during earnings season, but it may also create economic instability in key emerging markets.
Despite the pickup in mature economies, there are still significant inhibitors that will mean that IT spending growth remains moderate by historical standards. Cannibalization remains a broad trend, impacting everything from PCs (tablets) to software and services (Cloud) and ensuring major disruption for individual vendors. Price erosion and commoditization in hardware have spread to mobile devices. While showing signs of bottoming out, the PC market continues to post year-on-year declines in revenue terms, and telecom infrastructure investment remains tepid in many countries as carriers compete for a more mature customer base.
Underlying Fundamentals Have Improved
Nevertheless, in spite of this ongoing cannibalization and economic uncertainty, IT market fundamentals are more solid this year than 12 months ago. There is now significant pent-up demand for new servers, storage capacity and network equipment, and this is trickling through to increases in IT services revenue. Enterprise enthusiasm for new software built around the key 3rd platform solutions of Mobility, Cloud, Big Data and Social, remains strong. Consumer enthusiasm for mobile devices and applications remains positive, even though the market has inevitably cooled.
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