A venerable New Year's tradition in the tech world entails trotting out year-old predictions by analyst shops and laughing at their off-base prognostications. But here's a surprise: The two biggest analyst firms still standing -- Gartner and IDC -- did a pretty good job a year ago forecasting the shape of IT in 2009, as did the smaller Forrester Research and 451 Group.
Errors -- and they all made them -- notwithstanding, the major analyst shops did well enough for us to take their 2010 predictions seriously. Here's a look at what the analysts expected in 2009, what actually happened, and where IT may go in the new year.
The best call? It may seem obvious today, but a year ago nobody was talking about the end of all-you-can-eat, mobile data plans. But Gartner said this: "The limited capacity of 3G operators will lead to the demise of unlimited mobile data plans. Furthermore, the user perception driven by low data throughput will increase churn rates." And that's exactly the direction in which we're heading.
The worst calls? Gartner and Forrester were too bullish on the prospects of desktop virtualization taking hold last year.
To his credit, Forrester analyst Andrew Jaquith called out his own error, saying, "We were wrong, and called this trend too early. ... We also missed on the key driver." (He thought it would be security, not cost savings.)
And IDC struck out when it predicted that "government initiatives in 2009 will catalyze massive IT investments and industry growth focused on economic recovery, energy, and health industry streamlining, and improving financial markets' stability and transparency." Well, no -- and it was a surprising mistake because the company also predicted significant cuts in IT spending due to the faltering economy. It's hard to understand how that rather obvious insight squared with "massive investments".
Now onto the key predictions for 2010.