IT spending is up. PC sales in EMEA are down. And smart-home devices controlled by voice assistants are about to take off.
That’s some of the latest from leading IT market watchers. And here’s your tech provider’s update.
Global IT spending
IT spending worldwide this year is going to increase over last year by 3.2%, reaching a total of $3.76 trillion, predicts research and analysis firm Gartner.
That growth reflects IT’s changing and increasingly important role. “IT is no longer just a platform that enables organizations to run their business,” says Gartner researcher John-David Lovelock. “It is becoming the engine that moves the business.”
However, the spending increase will not be uniform across all IT product sectors, Gartner says. As the following table shows (courtesy of Gartner), the biggest gains in 2019 are forecast to come in enterprise software, IT services and data center systems. Two areas — devices and communications services — are forecast to grow slower this year than will the overall market:
The slowdown in devices reflects saturation in the smartphone and PC markets. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the firm predicts, will pick up the slack.
EMEA’s PC market
Speaking of PCs, market watcher IDC reports that PC sales in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) fell in last year’s fourth quarter by nearly 6%. Though that’s a big drop, it still represents some 19.6 million units shipped.
What’s behind the downturn? IDC points to both industry and political factors. These include the ongoing CPU shortage, the Brexit crisis in the U.K., and the “Yellow vest” protests in France.
The PC sales downturn was much smaller in the business market, where sales dropped just 1.1%, according to IDC. But sellers of consumer PCs felt real pain, with Q4 unit sales in EMEA declining by nearly 11%.
Different types of PC devices performed differently, IDC adds. Among the form factors that saw sales increases in EMEA during Q4 were “ultramobiles,” convertibles and gaming systems.
Smart assistant-compatible devices
Now that Alexa, Siri and other smart voice-controlled assistants have been purchased by millions of consumers, a new and related market is about to take off: smart-home devices that are compatible with those voice assistants.
These devices include controls for home automation and lighting, security and surveillance, and audio and video entertainment.
Analysis firm Canalys predicts the installed base of these voice-assistant-compatible devices will grow five-fold in the United States over the next 3 years, reaching an eye-popping total of 1.6 billion devices.
If so, that would be more smart-home devices in the country than there will be either smartphones (351 million, Canalys says) or smart speakers (129 million).
Drilling down deeper, Canalys has identified 2 distinct varieties of devices:
> Smart assistant-compatible devices: These operate in a network, and they can be operated either independently or with voice commands relayed by an off-site smart assistant built-in device (see below).
> Smart assistant built-in devices: These have smart assistants built-in. So they can either interpret voice commands directly themselves, or relay the commands to an off-site compatible device. Canalys predicts that the U.S. installed base of this type of device will top 1 billion units in the next 3 years.
Which voice-assistant platform will they operate on? That’s still up for grabs. Vendors including Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft are duking it out for dominance. “This,” says Canalys analyst Jason Low, “is a long-term battle.”