Mobile collapse and emerging markets cause cut in IT spending growth

Worse than expected tablet sales prompt analysts to revise spending forecasts again.

Analyst firm IDC has cut its prediction for how much worldwide IT spending will grow this year from 4.6 percent to 4.1 percent, citing a slowdown in investments in mobile devices and uncertain macroeconomic conditions in emerging markets.

It's the second cut IDC has made to its IT spending forecast for the year, which now puts the outlook for 2014's growth below last year's figure of 4.5 percent.

The main reason behind the cut is a slowdown in the sales of mobile devices, including weaker than expected demand for tablets. In the first quarter of this year, US tablet sales fell 40 percent year on year as a result of a sharp decline in iPad sales. In addition, exchange rates are looking unfavourable for US-based IT vendors, according to IDC.

One bright spot in IT spending however is that an uptick in infrastructure investment, excluding mobile, will slightly accelerate spending growth from last year's 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent in 2014.

"This volatility, coupled with the macroeconomic uncertainty in many emerging markets, is somewhat masking a more positive underlying foundation for enterprise IT spending, with firms continuing to invest in working off that pent-up demand to replace old servers, storage and network gear," said Stephen Minton, vice president in IDC's Global Technology & Industry Research Organisation.

"Some of that spending is also driving IT services, despite the fact that an increasing number of businesses are moving more of their traditional IT budget to the cloud," he added.

IDC expects 10 percent of software spending to be on cloud services by the end of 2014, while infrastructure-as-a-service should soak up 15 percent of spend on servers and storage.

The slowdown in mobile is also not all bad news in enterprise IT, according to IDC, which sees past growth in mobile generating more data, in turn raising demand for server and storage capacity.

With Europe's economy on the mend, IDC expects spending on IT in Western Europe to grow by two percent this year — on a par with growth in the US.

"Over the past year, most of the surprises on the upside have come from mature markets," said Minton. "Japan had a strong year in 2013, and a similar pattern is expected this year in North America and Western Europe. We still expect that businesses will choose to fix the roof while the sun is shining in the second half of 2014, as part of a general infrastructure investment cycle."

Meanwhile, Russia and China are still IT spending "wild cards" for the year. IDC expects growth in China to reach 10 percent in 2014, before slowing down in 2015. Meanwhile, Russia's spending is forecast to decline by one percent this year.

Earlier this year, fellow analyst firm Gartner forecast IT spending in US dollar terms to grow 3.1 percent in 2014 , totalling $3.8tr.

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