Tablets Having Big Impact on IT Budgets

This year, demand for tablet computers will actually help lift worldwide IT spending.

How pervasive will the role of tablet or non-traditional computers be in the enterprise of tomorrow? New market research suggest that tablet computers are already having a significant impact on IT spending.

This year, say analysts at Gartner Inc., demand for tablet computers will actually help lift worldwide IT spending. The firm predicts that IT spending will increase by $200 billion this year -- a 5.6 percent increase over 2010 -- thanks in part to surging demand for tablet computers. Last year, for example, customers bought more than 17.5 million tablets (most of them iPads manufactured by Apple Corp.); this year, Gartner says, that tally will almost quadruple -- to 70 million.

At an average selling price of slightly more than $420, that adds up quickly, which is the main reason Gartner revised its IT spending forecast upward despite a tough economy. Previously, the market watcher had estimated that IT spending would increase by 5.1 percent, year over year.

The bulk of this revision can be attributed to sales of tablets, which Gartner first started counting (as part of its worldwide IT spending tally) this quarter. "Including media tablets has increased [the] computing hardware growth outlook from 7.5 percent to 9.5 percent for 2011," claimed the firm in a release.

That's just the tip of the iceberg: "Worldwide media tablet spending is projected to reach $29.4 billion in 2011, up from $9.6 billion in 2010," the firm projected. "Global spending on media tablets is forecast to increase at an annual average rate of 52 percent through 2015."

Had Gartner not included tablet computers, it would have had to revise its IT spending forecast lower. "Absent the addition of media tablets, the forecast would have slightly declined in constant-dollar terms," said Gartner research vice president Richard Gordon, in a release. "[W]ith their addition, there's virtually no change in [the] underlying forecast growth at the level of overall IT,"

At this point, Gartner isn't factoring instability in the Middle East and Japan into its worldwide IT spending estimates.

The Middle East, on the one hand, accounts for about 2 percent of IT spending, so Gartner doesn't expect turmoil in North Africa or the Middle East to noticeably impact its numbers. The aftermath of the natural and nuclear disasters in Japan certainly will affect IT spending -- Japan is the world's third-largest economy according to the International Monetary Fund -- but Gartner says it's too soon to say by how much.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.