No one would claim that the US tech market is booming. With Europe still mired in recession and debt problems, US economic growth looking soft, and business and consumer worries about the US government raising tax rates and cutting Federal spending, it is not surprising that businesses and governments are being cautious in their purchases of technology goods and services. But we think the fear is overblown. Forrester's forecast for the US tech market in 2013 and 2014 -- published today as "US Tech Market Outlook For 2013 And 2014: Better Times Ahead" -- projects a 6.2% rise in 2013 and a 6.8% growth in 2014 in US business and government purchases of computer equipment, communications equipment, software, IT consulting and systems integration services, and IT outsourcing. Adding in slow growing telecommunications services pulls growth down to 5.7% in 2013 and 6.1% in 2014. That may not be a boom, but it is certainly not a bust.
While CIOs are cautious in their tech buying -- and in the case of the Federal government, actually cutting back -- that caution has and will show up mostly in reduced spending on computer and communications equipment (with the exception of tablets). CIOs will be most aggressive in software, especially for SaaS apps, analytics, and mobile apps. IT outsourcing will see good growth in 2013 as the result of 2012 selection decisions, while IT consulting and systems integration will come on strong in 2014. Business and government purchases of telecommunications services will continue to grow at a slower rate than the overall tech market.
As readers of my blog will remember, we were all ready to publish our mid-2011 update to our global economy report (see July 28, 2011, "Forrester Will Lower Its Tech Market Forecast By One-to-Two Percentage Points, Depending On Federal Debt Ceiling Outcome") when the US deficit ceiling crisis, renewal of the European debt crisis, and other developments raised questions about the strength of the economic recovery. Given the deterioration in the economic outlook, we stopped publication to rework our forecast to reflect those changes. The delay did have a some side benefits, including getting Q2 tech market data for Canada, adjusting our US data on computer equipment, communications, and equipment for Bureau of Economic Affairs revisions, incorporating new data sources for our US projections for IT consulting and outsourcing services, and taking advantage of the better data on Australia, China, India, and Japan from Forrester's acquisition of Springboard.
The Canadian market for purchases of information and communications technologies (ICT) by businesses and governments is about 10% the size of the US ICT market, and only about 3% of the global ICT market. Still, it is an important market because of the sophisticated level of its tech adoption (i.e., its readiness to adopt advanced technologies) and its proximity to the US market.
Canada's ICT market growth rates of 6.2% in 2011 and 2012 growth of 8.1% in Canadian dollars will be very similar to the US ICT market growth in US dollars in the same periods. With the Canadian dollar having gained strength against the US dollar, that means that US vendors will see even stronger Canadian revenue growth when they convert their Canadian sales back into US dollars.
Communications equipment and software will have the strongest growth in 2011, at 10.5% and 8.4%, respectively. Computer equipment growth of 4.4% and telecommunications services growth of 2.2% will be the weakest product categories.
Forrester just published our latest forecast for the US market for business and government purchases of information technology (IT) goods and services (April 1, 2011, "US Tech Market Outlook, Q1 2011 -- Building a Springboard For Even Stronger Growth in 2012"), and we have raised our 2011 and 2012 outlooks: we now forecast 8% growth in the US in 2011 (up from our 7.4% forecast in January) and 10.3% in 2012 (compared with a 9.3% forecast earlier). For the broader ICT market (information and communications technology, adding in telecommunications services), 2011 growth will be 6.8% compared to a 5.1% rise in 2012.
Like many connected with IBM as an employee, a customer, or an analyst, I watched IBM's Watson beat two smart humans in three games of Jeopardy. However, I was able to do so under more privileged conditions than sitting on my couch. Along with my colleague John Rymer, I attended an IBM event in San Francisco, in which two of the IBM scientists who had developed Watson provided background on Watson prior to, during commercial breaks in, and after the broadcast of the third and final Jeopardy game. We learned a lot about the time, effort, and approaches that went into making Watson competitive in Jeopardy (including, in answer to John's question, that its code base was a combination of Java and C++). This background information made clear how impressive Watson is as a milestone in the development of artificial intelligence. But it also made clear how much work still needs to be done to take the Watson technology and deploy it against the IBM-identified business problems in healthcare, customer service and call centers, or security.
The IBM scientists showed a scattergram of the percentage of Jeopardy questions that winning human contestants got right vs. the percentage of questions that they answered, which showed that these winners generally got 80% or more of the answers right for 60% to 70% of the questions. They then showed line charts of how Watson did against the same variables over time, with Watson well below this zone at the beginning, but then month by month moving higher and higher, until by the time of the contest it was winning over two-thirds of the test contests against past Jeopardy winners. But what I noted was how long the training process took before Watson became competitive -- not to mention the amount of computing and human resources IBM put behind the project.