Worldwide technology spending will slow significantly in 2009 because of the financial turmoil that has rattled global markets since September, research firm IDC said Wednesday.

ICD now expects worldwide information technology spending to grow by 2.6 percent in 2009, down from its earlier forecast of a 5.9 percent growth. In the U.S., spending will grow just 0.9 percent, well below IDC’s August forecast of a 4.2 percent growth.

"Although all the economic forecasts went from up slightly to down drastically in a matter of days, the good news is that IT is in a better position than ever to resist the downward pull of a slowing economy," said John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC. "Technology is already deeply embedded in many mission-critical operations and remains critical to achieving further efficiency and productivity gains. As a result, IDC expects worldwide IT spending will continue to grow in 2009, albeit at a slower pace."

There have already been serious signs that tech spending is weakening. Last week, Cisco Systems Inc., the first of the major technology companies to report earnings that included October, warned that orders for its computer networking gear fell abruptly during the month. The tech bellwether expects sales to fall in the current quarter.

Despite the economic downturn, IDC continues to expect spending on technology products and services to continue to grow next year – just at a slower pace.

Information technology, said IDC chief research officer John Gantz in a statement, "is in a better position than ever to resist the downward pull of a slowing economy."

Gantz said technology is deeply embedded in businesses’ important operations, and "remains critical to achieving further efficiency and productivity gains."

Software and services, which companies can use to save money, will see solid growth while hardware spending, with the exception of storage, is expected to decline in 2009.

Geographically, growth will be slowest in the U.S., Japan and Western Europe, where it will hover around 1 percent next year. Emerging markets in central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East will continue to see what IDC called "healthy growth," though at notably lower levels than its previous, double-digit forecast.

IDC expects technology spending to make a "full recovery," with growth rates approaching 6 percent in 2012. Even so, the research firm estimates that the industry will lose more than $300 billion in revenue due to slower spending over the next four years.

As grim as the picture looks, IDC analyst Stephen Minton said tech spending is actually faring better this time around than it did in the previous downturn following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Although the revised forecast and the downside scenario both reflect a grim outlook for global economic growth over the next several years, IT spending actually fares well when compared to the previous downturn after the events of September 11, 2001," said Minton, vice president, Worldwide IT Markets and Strategies at IDC. "Companies currently don’t have the asset and spending ‘overhang’ that enabled them to put off purchases after Y2K and the dot-com bubble. As a result, there will be greater pressure for them to continue making IT investments in order to stay competitive."

Companies are not in the position to put off purchases and, as a result, "there will be greater pressure for them to continue making IT investments in order to stay competitive."