Roundup: Google’s Laptops, California’s Recovery and H-1B’s Decline

The big news of the week—Microsoft’s $8.5 billion purchase of Skype—has analysts wondering if Microsoft will “screw it up” or find smart ways to integrate Skype’s vaunted VoIP phone service into its suite of products, everything from Xbox to Hotmail to Outlook. The breathtaking valuation was considered to be a preemptive strike against potential bidding competitors such as Google and Facebook. Whatever the reason, the healthy markup indicates continuing post-recession excitement in the tech industry.

The other big news of the week—the announcement of Google’s Chromebook—has the potential to shake up IT, especially in the business and education markets Google is targeting. By providing Google Apps-equipped notebooks (from Samsung and Acer) for low subscription fees, new hardware deployment models must now be considered for any organization that’s willing to take a leap of faith into what’s increasingly looking like our cloud-based computing future.

So it’s been a busy week in California, where the unemployment rate is still more than three points above the national average but where “tech, trade, and tourism” are rebounding well. The recovery has been strongest in the northern part of the state, where the technology industry is most concentrated. Southern California was hit particularly hard by the housing slump.

Overall, IT salaries are on the rise according to IT staffing industry executives. After two years of pay cuts and stagnating wages, salaries are being driven up by demand for contract and permanent IT staff. At the same time, some IT workers are leaving full-time, permanent positions to become contractors. Those IT professionals want to capitalize on the number of contract opportunities in the marketplace as employers devote a larger portion of their workforces to contingent labor. They also want to cash in on the pay premiums that contingent IT staff are commanding these days.

But those salary hikes aren’t necessarily attracting foreign tech experts anymore. Demand for H-1B visas, once so highly coveted, is way down,  attracting about 50% fewer petitions so far this year than last year, and 80% fewer than in 2009. Several factors have contributed to the decline in H-1B visas, including the lackluster pace of the U.S. recovery, more opportunities for skilled workers in their home nations and higher visa fees, which appear to have spurred Indian companies operating in the U.S. to seek fewer visas.

In hiring news, global powerhouse Seimens says it wants to become “the number one supplier of good-paying, high-tech jobs in America.” Its Building Technologies division is seeing an increase in orders to retrofit and upgrade buildings with energy-efficient and automation solutions. It also has more than 400 open positions in the sales, engineering and field service job categories.

Upcoming Tech Events

Digital Summit 2011
May 16-17—Atlanta
This year’s summit will feature over 100 speakers and an audience of over 1,000 Internet execs, entrepreneurs and senior marketers. Join dozens of industry leaders and innovators in the conversation on topics such as social media, mobile, cloud computing, online advertising, analytics, search, video, e-commerce, and more.

Excellence in Government
May 23—Washington, D.C.
Learn how to improve your agency’s IT practice by developing a cloud strategy, successfully using mobile technology, measuring progress quickly, managing projects to completion, and demonstrating improved performance with the data you already have.

TechCrunch Disrupt
May 23-25—New York
Anything can happen at this fast-moving and unpredictable conference filled with all-star speakers, the best new startups that launch on our stages, and lots of attendee interaction.

Green Data Center
May 24-26—San Francisco
The Green Data Center Conference San Francisco will foster an educational environment that allows you to analyze new techniques that will not only help our environment, but also save your organization time and money. Industry experts and executives will gather to discuss the growing importance of the green movement as well as the trend towards the cloud. This conference will share valuable information that can be taken back to your organization and used immediately.

Forrester’s IT Forum 2011
May 25-27—Las Vegas
This year, we dedicate IT Forum to building bridges to new business partners, scaling innovative solutions, and co-creating business and technology strategy. We’ll help each of the roles we serve move beyond business and technology alignment by mastering three interrelated disciplines: developing your empowered BT organization; unleashing technology-based innovation; and driving business and technology process flexibility.