Welcome to 2005, the year the high-tech industry does…something. Truth is, you won’t find an awful lot of agreement on how things will turn out for tech this year.

The most enthusiastic of forecasters say capital spending growth on tech could hit double-digits this year, while more dour Wall Street analysts say that’s just plain bunk.



Certainly, plenty of excitement surrounds consumer technologies like liquid crystal and plasma TVs and wireless technologies like Wi-Fi. But for every high hope, there’s a gloomy forecast of weak corporate spending and merger failures or continuing price pressure from China.



This much is known: After nearly three years of declines, 2004 was a ray of hope for tech. Business spending on technology was up, somewhere in the range of 5%. Venture capitalists started taking entrepreneurs to lunch once again. Tech employment picked up, despite competition from international outsourcing outfits. And tech stocks outpaced the rest of the stock market.



PLUSES AND MINUSES. Will those happy trends continue this year? Well, tech spending should keep pace with 2004. VCs look like they’re ready to put money behind the young turks they’ve been lunching. The high-price products coming from the convergence of consumer electronics and the tech industry look like they’re about to lose the ugly “high-price” moniker. Wi-Fi is about to go from cool-to-have to must-have.



But worries remain. While tech companies are hiring again, they don’t seem particularly eager to increase wages. Many economists are concerned that tech salaries will stay flat or even drop this year. Either way, they certainly won’t keep up with the cost of living. Meanwhile, investors happy about the software industry’s merger mania may get a rude awakening: These deals may look great on paper, but they’re awfully hard to pull off for a whole bunch of reasons, ranging from cultural to technical.



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