When it comes to M&A, some predictions are harder than others. One natural position to take is that Microsoft will return to M&A in 2011. After a very quiet year in 2010, they are sitting on a massive cash stockpile, and it's fair to assume that, at least in part to mollify stockholders, they will start spending that money, particularly on M&A.
Cisco is in a similar position with a cash balance of close to $40 billion, so it's safe to say we'll see them back in the pool soon. Even after big acquisitions like 3Com and Palm last year, HP isn't finished, either. They still have healthy cash reserves, so we may see another big deal or two out of them in 2011.
The trend to watch in 2011 is online learning, particularly for K-12. Excellent examples of this are Blackboard's acquisitions of both Elluminate and Wimba last year, and Thoma Bravo's acquisition of PLATO Learning. You can expect to see them make more acquisitions in this arena, and see other companies, including corporate learning businesses, push into this space to compete.
Expect to see some high value deals in the online learing sector in 2011, particularly as more of the delivery and infrastructure of education is being built through tech platforms. And, as will be the case with lots of sectors this year, look for India and China to make a splash in this space.