Apr 122011

Gartner is one of the most recognizable names in IT research. TMA doesn’t concern himself with most of what they do, because all consultants are useless people you pay to tell you what time it is by having them look at your watch.  If their smartphone market predictions are any indication, you’d be better off throwing a dart at a board. Seriously: it’s like their firm is populated by Scott Moritz clones.

Anyway, Gartner’s most recent forecasts for Apple’s iOS devices are a lot like their past predictions. Let’s take a look:

*note: the 4th row was added for emphasis by TMA

First of all, what’s with this 2012…2015 shit? Maybe the apocalypse predicted for 2012 only resulted in the temporary end of the world. Or maybe Gartner was paying homage to the Internet meme 1. Do x  2. ???  3. Profit! I’ve got it: 2015 was the first year they could say something contentious that would be sure to land their article in hundreds of technology sites, but at the same time allow them to maintain the deniability that pushing a prediction for consumer electronics out 4 years lets you do. But even so, there’s got to be some seriously sound logic to justify their conclusions right? Let’s take a look at some of the very best insight the consumer electronics analysis community has to offer: the analysts’ comments accompanying this *ahem* provocative chart.

“Google’s Android OS is forecast to increase its worldwide share of the media tablet market from 20 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2015 (see Table 1).”

If you manage to stop laughing after reading the “20 percent in 2011” part, you’ll notice they even have the insight to come up with a non-round number for 2015! How do they do it?

“Analysts said Google’s decision not to open up Honeycomb, its first OS version dedicated to tablets, to third parties will prevent fragmentation, but it will also slow the price decline and ultimately cap market share.”

What “decision not to open up Honeycomb” would Gartner be referring to? Andy Rubin himself is indicated that Honeycomb was temporarily withheld from manufacturers only because it wasn’t ready and that Google did not want the operating system shoehorned into phone-sized devices. Not that anything Andy Rubin says is to be believed at this point, but saying Google has made a “decision not to open up Honeycomb” is at best a generous extrapolation of a temporary withholding and at worst an absolute fucking fantasy. Equating Rubin’s stance with some kind of new licensing relationship reveals a jaw-dropping level of willful ignorance. But thank god for those newly-announced series of anti-fragmentation controls: it’s the only thing stopping Android from shooting up to a 39% share in 2012.

“Volume will be driven by support from many players, the ecosystem of applications for tablets getting more competitive and some platform flexibility allowing lower price points,” said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner. “The new licensing model Google has introduced with Honeycomb enables Google to drive more control, allowing only optimal tablet implementations that don’t compromise quality of experience. This might mean that prices will drop at a slower pace than what we have seen in the smartphone market.”

See what they did there?  TMA calls this structure the “excremental pyramid” and it’s the cornerstone of shitty tech beat analysis. Take a fantasy premise and stack your long-term analysis on it. The “decision not to open up Honeycomb” is now an entirely new licensing model! How this model translates into price drops isn’t entirely clear – you’d think control would compromise manufacturers’ ability to commodotize components, but at this point in the analysis, that would like pointing out a blemish to a person whose jugular was just cut.

“With the migration of Blackberry devices to QNX – the OS used on the Blackberry PlayBook – in 2012, RIM will be able to offer users a consistent experience across its whole product portfolio and create a single developer community. While QNX is a strong platform that delivers on performance, graphics and multitasking features, Gartner analysts said success in the media tablet market will be driven by richness of ecosystem.”

What “Gartner analysts” are referring to is RIM’s broadly speculated, but not confirmed, merging of the BlackBerry platform with the PlayBook’s QNX-based OS. Right now, the PlayBook supports development in just about everything but its native platform because QNX isn’t ready yet and RIM is desperate to get the PlayBook to market. So as of now, the PlayBook allows apps created in Adobe Air, Flash and WebWorks as well as Android 2.2 apps. At some point, these apps will be joined by those created in the native QNX environment. That sounds like an awesomely consistent experience. And this is before any proposed merger between the BlackBerry and PlayBook OS.

“Gartner analysts said platforms such as MeeGo and WebOS, which currently have a weak presence in the smartphone market, will have a limited appeal unless they can grow that business.”

OS-makers’ offerings will have a limited appeal if they can’t grow their businesses? No shit?

“Smartphone users will want to buy a tablet that runs the same operating system as their smartphone. This is so that they can share applications across devices as well as for the sense of familiarity the user interfaces will bring,” Ms. Milanesi said.

Even though Gingerbread is still “open”, which will allow some level of customizability (again, Rubin’s words) and Honeycomb’s successors have not been declared closed. BlackBerrys and Playbooks will run apps created in several different development environments once their native environments merge – if that ever happens.

“Vendors developing on Android should be prepared to see more cross brand ownership as some users might put OS over brand when it comes to the purchasing decision.”

When have people not put OS over brand? You think people that bought an Android smart phone are brand-loyal to Samsung? TMA estimates that these sleight-of-hand semantical statements, otherwise known in the consulting community as “horsefeathers”, are where firms like Gartner derive 99.7% of their profits.

“Improvements on usability and brand recognition are the strongest differentiators they can focus on.”

Didn’t you just say not to focus on brand? Or is the OS the new brand? Or are you talking about those people who “might not” put OS over brand? Did Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis used to work for Gartner?

Like every firm that gets paid to prognosticate, Gartner profits from throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks 5 – 10 years out. If by some miracle their predictions hold up, which they never do, they’re geniuses. If not, well, the market is a constantly changing ecosystem with so many unforeseen variables and they shouldn’t be held accountable for their findings.

So if the nonsensical statements made by the talking heads at Gartner can’t logically explain why the iPad would lose the majority of market share by (…) 2015, could there be another angle Gartner’s trying to work? Of course there is. It’s another thinly-veiled trick from the analyst’s playbook: Gartner is pulling an extremely lazy “this has all happened before” and pulling from the history of the smartphone market in an attempt to predict the future of the tablet market.

But as smart observers have already pointed out, the tablet market is not the smartphone market. Here’s some statistics relevant to the market Gartner is trying to analyze that they might want to think about:

-How many years will one carrier have an exclusive agreement to carry iPads, forcing people to factor carrier switching into their decision?

-How much of a subsidy will carriers be willing to grant devices competing with the iPad?

-How many “buy-one, get-one” offers will be available for Android tablets?

The answers are: 0 days, $0, and 0 offers, respectively.

Gartner’s history of incorrectness has led TMA to speculate on what their next move as a business could possibly be. As bleak as their pageview-whoring non-analyses tend to perform, there is one line of work that allows you to be consistently wrong with your predictions, but also allows you to backpeddle enough to lead observers to think you have some shred of credibility going forward.

How’s the Gartner School of Meteorology sound?

  2 Responses to “Gartner’s Extended 5 Year Forecast for the iPad: Mostly Cloudy with a 0% Chance of Happening”

  1. More like Gartner School of Astrology. Their customers only check the work to the extent of justifying their purchase.

    Frankly, this is a little scary*. Even flawed, Gartner shows IPad with significant lead (near majority) for 5 years. Since I doubt they’ve considered any next move(s) from Apple, the reality is likely to be closer to 80-90% market share and nearly 100% of profits.

    * – by scary, I mean “this is going to be some ride” scary. Yet, the market prices AAPL like a detergent maker…

  2. I think any analysis in consumer electronics that extends beyond the 12-18 month horizon is inherently irresponsible, but 4 years? It’s absurd and Gartner knows it. In addition to the moves by Apple, who you know is going to be leading this charge, people don’t know what entries like WebOS will even look like – how are you going to project its performance in the market? (I’m one of those people who would be using a Pre if there were no iPhone).

    It makes me throw up in my mouth a little to see “Gartner” splashed all over my RSS feed any time their firm vomits some word count about the future of computing. They should position their analysts’ comments before releasing their quantitative predictions, that way they can stick to the familiar formula of setting up a joke before delivering the punchline.

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