MANILA, December 20, 2005
 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - People no longer need to work in a traditional office space. The home has become the extension of the corporate workstation. But why should one work in hotels, airport lounges, cafťs, on the road, while on vacation or practically anywhere?

Inasmuch as technology has ushered in a mobile lifestyle, it has also created a new breed of employees called the "e-empowered workforce," who use technology to work anywhere, anytime, any place and at much faster and more productive levels.

In 2006, research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) predicts that information and communications technology (ICT) spending will be largely driven by the needs of these working nomads.

"The e-empowered employee is increasingly able to harness technology to be more productive and responsive. Work takes place anytime, anywhere, any place. Itís moving out of the traditional workstation into homes, hotels, airport lounges and taxis," says IDC in its Top 10 predictions for the ICT sector in 2006.

Eva Au, managing director of IDC Asia-Pacific, says that as workspace boundaries diminish, technology roadmaps will not only be determined by how they can enhance productivity but also by how they can support an always-connected, knowledge-driven and rapidly shrinking global economic society.

IDC predicts that in 2006, spending on telecommunication services will grow by eight percent to exceed $175 billion in the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), with China and India accounting for 64 percent of the regionís incremental market value.

Enterprises, IDC says, are driving their employees to be more competitive and productive and this, in turn, will fuel the growth of ICT spending in the region.

If only for this, the economic outlook for 2006, in IDCís view, will be "healthy despite continued global political, health and environmental uncertainties."

The global IT and telecoms tracker says that inasmuch as consumers will likely adopt hardware, software connectivity and content more as they migrate their workstations to their mobile life, it is crucial for businesses to adapt to their employeesí competitive needs.

Topping these new needs are wireless content packages. With more employees using handheld computers, notebooks, smartphones, and BlackBerries more than wired PC workstations, the wireless content industry, which encompasses games, music, ringtones and TV, is abuzz with activity as service providers rush to offer content and applications bundled with cost-saving schemes and broadband access.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will also continue to grow as VoIP adoption in the enterprise will most likely rise due to the demand for low-cost, integrated voice, data and videoconferencing solutions at work.

If it is any indication that demand for VoIP is robust, IDC cites the recent purchase of Skype by eBay as well as the investments of Yahoo, Microsoft and Google in the VoIP space.

The coming together of many types of applications, services and functionalities in one device will be sustained in 2006. In fact, IDC says 15 million converged devices will be shipped across the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) next year, or a 24 percent growth from 2004 shipments.

The challenge for businesses in this era of convergence, according to IDC, is consolidation.

In the race to apply technological innovations in the workplace to boost employee productivity, lowering the cost of the ICT infrastructure is the next big challenge.

One has to consolidate the hodgepodge of offerings and integrate them seamlessly into the organizationís ICT schemes.

This, IDC says, calls for business intelligence (BI) tools that can improve, manage and integrate a wide range of applications for the use of employees. Vendors will have to fill this need, IDC says, and prospects for growth in BI services are pegged at 10 percent in 2006 to revenues of as much as $13 million in the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan).

It is true, however, that as e-empowered employees and enterprises create new demands and fuel growth in the ICT sector, there will be increased concerns for threats such as identity thefts, data control problems and a host of business and legal issues.

Because of this, IDC says the market will look forward to solutions from market leaders and even local players to fill in the gaps.

Business models will also most likely change in 2006, IDC adds.

The research firm says most established vendors have to explore the option of partnering and integrating their offerings with others or run the risk of marginalization.

This becomes extremely crucial as open source gains appeal in specific markets.

"Generating revenue through traditional methods such as the sale of the use of individual copies and patent royalty payments become more challenging with open source software," IDC says. "Vendors are giving their software for free and charging for installation. By making the software available as open source, customers are more likely to purchase related products and services."

The service delivery model is also in a state of flux. IDC notes that there is an emerging overlap of IT services and BPO delivery as observed in IBMís acquisition of Daksh and NCS of Singapore and other network-based service providers offering BPO services.

"Service providers will no longer find it profitable to own and control the entire service and delivery spectrum. Instead, they will be broadening their capabilities through globalization, location and partnering," IDC says.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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