Software’s enjoyed some healthy growth over the past few years, even as manufacturers of PCs and other hardware have seen their sales and profits implode. But that solid run could be coming to an end, according to a new prediction from research firm IDC.
IDC estimates the current worldwide market for software at $167 billion, having enjoyed year-over-year growth of 4.7 percent in the first half of 2012. Applications represented the fastest-growing segment of the market, driven in large part by a demand for CRM and Collaboration software. Virtualization-related platforms also enjoyed significant growth.
In what should come as a surprise to exactly nobody, IDC found that businesses want their software to include more options for integrating business data into features.
“Increasingly, companies are thinking of social solutions as decision support and ad hoc work facilitators and are looking for richer features that integrate data and content with people and systems,” Vanessa Thompson, research manager for IDC’s Enterprise Social Networks and Collaborative Technologies unit, wrote in a statement. “In the new collaborative enterprise, companies are extending asynchronous data and content sharing capabilities to enable collaboration with a broader range of external constituents, including customers, partners, and suppliers.”
What that means, basically, is that companies want better tools for collaborating over in-house data. Indeed, a variety of companies are rushing to fill exactly that need: Salesforce, SAP, and other IT vendors all offer platforms with some level of collaboration features. Even more software-builders are rushing into the enterprise wares designed to store and analyze massive amounts of data.
Even with those tools, however, there remains a growing need for data scientists and other personnel to actually make sense of all the information flowing into organizations. “The reality is data scientists already exist under different names: DBSs, statisticians and data mining engineers,” Dresner Advisory Services president and founder Howard Dresner wrote in a recent blog posting. “But the new title gives them great marketability. We clearly don’t have enough data scientists, given the challenges of the technology, and at some point the lines between tech innovation/maturity and available skills will intersect.”
In the meantime, IDC expects the software market to level off a bit in coming years, with 2012 the beginning of a period of single-digit growth. If that prediction pans out, it could make things a bit more interesting for all those vendors crowding into the space.