Online delivery models for everything from printing to business intelligence will take hold next year and software will emerge to make sense of the enormous amount of unstructured data generated by social networking.

Those are two of the predictions made by analyst IDC in its annual forecast. Among other developments it sees mobile networks opening up to the avalanche of gadgets that will hit the market which will bridge the gap between smart phones and notebook Pcs. These will extend the reach of the Internet and will force mobile network operators to open up their networks beyond to any gadget and application.

Amid an overall slowing of market growth to between 5.5 and 6% green IT is predicted to start to affect market share. Suppliers will focus sharply on SMBs and the emerging BRIC markets where spending will remain strong.

"One of the more profound consequences that will come out of this era of hyper-disruption is the opportunity – and for some, the critical need – for IT suppliers to move beyond their old, narrow identities and offerings," said Frank Gens, senior VP of research at IDC. "As the industry's leaders set about to substantially rebuild their core businesses on disruptive models and principles, they will find that these efforts will redefine their identity as well as their customer base."

Coming your way in 2008:

Market Leaders Embrace Online Delivery Models. The IT industry's market leaders will dramatically increase the migration of core offerings – applications, business intelligence, servers, storage, imaging, printing, etc. – to online delivery models as a key method for profitably serving high-growth markets, particularly SMBs.

Application Appliances Will Go Mainstream. Furthering the industry trend toward "solutionization" of commodity products, server vendors will partner with application vendors to deliver pre-packaged application appliances that simplify customer adoption.

"Web Gadgets" Will Further Extend the Internet. Following in the footsteps of Apple's iTouch and Amazon's Kindle, a new class of devices will fill the gap between notebook PCs and smartphones. These will radically change the online marketplace, including fueling the acceleration of location-based services.

Mobile Networks Will Open Up. Faced with mounting pressure from Web gadgets and open development efforts such as Google's Android and the Open Handset Alliance, mobile network operators will begrudgingly begin to open up their networks to any device and any application.

Software Will Emerge to Tame Social Networking's "Cacophony of the Crowds." The sudden expansion of social networking will lead to a tsunami of unstructured data. This will lead to the emergence of "Eureka 2.0" software that combines text analytics, sentiment extraction, and related technologies to distill the "wisdom of crowds."
Worldwide IT spending will grow at a slower pace in 2008. Economic uncertainties and downside risk will dampen IT spending growth in the U.S. and elsewhere. As a result, worldwide IT market growth will be a moderate 5.5-6.0%, down from 6.9% in 2007.

IT Suppliers Will "Double Down" on Fast-Growth, Emerging Markets and SMBs. Vendors will increase their focus on the "BRIC+9" countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China plus the next nine important emerging markets), where IT spending growth will remain strong. The SMB sector will get similar attention as suppliers seek out additional pockets of spending.

Alongside these developments, we'll see more active marketing of Consumer VoIP by U.S. telcos, and a continuing surge in Green IT that moves market shares as corporations focus on the "greenness" of IT purchases and operations. Finally, the long-running trend of Industry Mergers and Acquisitions will continue unabated as companies seek market share and/or competitive advantage.