The arrival of netbooks as a competing PC platform, the explosion of social media networking for both business and personal use and the rise of smart grid technology are among the emerging themes unveiled yesterday in Deloitte's 2009 global predictions for the technology industry.

"In 2009, low-cost netbooks are going to disrupt the PC industry; social networking will no longer be just for the teenager, but a mandate by the CIO; and smart grid technology will represent the biggest and fastest growing sector in green tech, perhaps even in the entire technology market," said Eric Openshaw, vice chairman and U.S. technology leader for Deloitte LLP. "The most significant emerging technologies will be those that deliver cost-efficiency, contribute to environmental sustainability and drive new forms of personal and business collaboration."

In 2009, electricity is expected to account for over 16 percent of all energy used. However, the average efficiency of the world's legacy electricity grids is around only 33 percent. Enter smart grid technologies. Smart grid companies add computer intelligence and networking to existing electrical grids, yielding a consumption savings of up to 30 percent. Smart grid solutions providers enjoyed 50 percent revenue growth in 2008 and may generate $25 billion in revenues in 2009. Although the global economy may make public spending on smart grid unlikely, governments may choose to offer tax incentives as well as consider how smart grid technology can reduce non-domestic energy dependence and help make the grid more secure. To conserve costs, profit-oriented utilities and enterprises may deploy smart grid technologies even without government support. Major manufacturers and utilities may even want to explore partnerships with or acquisition of smart energy companies.

Disrupting the PC: The Rise of the Netbook

The netbook, also known as the mini-notebook, is likely to be the fastest growing PC segment in 2009. The momentum behind netbooks should grow, with new models offering better processors and improved hard drives. Although netbooks have the potential to threaten PC and other subsectors' margins, careful market development and expanded applications offer significant opportunities as well. PC manufacturers should consider the market for premium netbooks, with producers of operating systems developing products designed specifically for netbooks. Other technology companies should take advantage of the inexpensive, low-power central processing units (CPUs) of netbooks, with home-media systems, digital video recorders and game consoles capitalizing on the new CPUs. Already, wireless carriers are looking to subsidize netbooks as a way to lock in wireless data subscribers. Netbooks can also be used by office workers instead of conventional PCs and even replace field force worker's clipboards or PDAs.

Social Networks in the Enterprise: Facebook for the Fortune 500

It looks as though 2009 will be the breakout year for social networks in the enterprise. Large IT companies are planning on spending significant money in 2009 on social network applications and are building research centers that focus exclusively on enterprise social networking (ESN).

Some major telecommunications companies are already deploying social networking solutions internally and as part of their global service offerings. Even governments are likely to deploy ESN, both internally and to interact with constituents. But while ESN looks like an easy way to capture value at a relatively low cost and applications are still being refined, enterprises need to develop social networks so that they engender productivity and balance control with employees' desire for privacy.

Accessing Deloitte's Global Predictions and US Outlook Reports

Predictions 2009 is a series of three reports examining emerging developments and how they will shape the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) industries. The 2009 series has drawn on internal and external inputs from conversations with member firm clients, contributions from Deloitte member firms' 6,000 partners and managers specializing in TMT and discussions with industry analysts as well as interviews with leading executives from around the globe. Each report includes recommendations on how to best leverage these trends.

Full reports on Deloitte's predictions for the technology, media and telecommunications industries are available online.