Economic Forecast 2011: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

From technology to real estate, local watchers see the signs of the recovery.
|   January 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

deliveries begin for these aircraft, Boeing will start hiring again. And with a half-billion-dollar backlog of orders, those jobs will be around for a long time.

Microsoft’s Comeback Year? • Rob Helm, Director of Research, Directions on Microsoft, Kirkland

The Threat: The iPad and its wannabe tablets can’t replace the PC, but they can compete with it for technology dollars. That situation could hurt sales of Windows and Office, Microsoft’s two most profitable software products. Windows and Office don’t ship on most tablets. Nobody knows what the impact of tablets will be. If the tablet hit turns out to be minor, there could actually be an upside as analysts revise their estimates upward.

The Promise: Servers and the cloud. Microsoft has completely rebooted its lineup of software for e-mail, social networking and communications inside businesses. Now Microsoft is feverishly working to put the new server products into its data centers so it can offer them as cloud services to businesses. The company has already collected a lot of the money for new servers through long-term contracts. There’s potentially a lot more money to come as customers roll out the servers or start subscribing to them in the cloud. For the cloud, the number to watch is unearned revenue as a percent of revenue in the company’s Office and Server & Tools Divisions. As customers move to the cloud, you should see unearned revenue go skyward as well.

In the end, the biggest factor in Microsoft’s success is the number of PCs sold. Anything unexpected that tweaks PC sales up or down even a few percentage points will turn tablets and the cloud into footnotes.

G Forces • Brenda Cooper, Chief Information Officer, City of Kirkland, science fiction writer and futurist

At the risk of sounding a little silly, I kept coming up with G’s for next year. Yep. “G’s.”  Microsoft’s Kinect will contribute to our great gaming industry, as will the rise of social, mobile and geo-aware games. Google’s growing presence in the region will keep adding to the tech ecosystem, and draw great people. And the most important “G” word for the year is green. We’ll see green building and green retrofitting and green energy industries do well. While not enough to lift all boats, I expect Seattle to outperform most metro areas in 2011. We’ll grow.

Hood’s Law and Cheap Power

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