Research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) believes that a leader among technology companies working in the so-called third platform space will emerge next year.
Technology giants Microsoft and HP are two of the companies vying for leadership in this sector, which encompasses mobile devices and apps, cloud services, mobile broadband networks, big data analytics, and social technologies.
In a new report, IDC suggests that 2012 will be a year in which IT vendors are forced to make big decisions and bold investments that could determine the industry's leaders for the next decade.
Major points from the report:
Growth and third platform technologies
IDC predicts the IT industry will grow by 6.9 per cent year-on-year to be worth $5 trillion in 2020, $1.7 trillion more than today. It estimates that at least 80 per cent of this growth will come from third-platform technologies.
Third-platform technologies currently account for about 20 per cent of IT spending but IDC predicts sales will grow by 18 per cent a year between now and 2020.
In 2012, for example, IDC predicts that over $40bn will be spent on "smart city" solutions that rely heavily on third-platform technologies. This investment will be seen in a range of sectors, such as government, energy and healthcare services, with IDC forecasting annual spending on smart city systems to be worth over $57bn by 2014.
Until now, vendors and users have been concentrating on cloud infrastructure services, but IDC expects this focus to shift next year to application platforms, with competition among vendors growing to build the largest portfolios and ecosystems around those platforms.
IDC predicts Amazon Web Services' revenues will exceed $1bn in 2012, with Google Enterprise hitting this mark soon after, as both firms look to compete with Microsoft as enterprise platform providers.
Within two years, the number of network-connected "intelligent communicating" devices will outnumber "traditional computing" devices by almost two to one. IDC believes this trend is changing the way people think about interacting with each other and devices. Within the next year or two it believes over 100 companies will offer the ability to "follow" the status of products and services. It also believes Near-Field Communications technology will play a big part in these interactions.