Gartner declares Android a second place winner in 2012. Why?
October 8th, 2009
Daniel Eran Dilger
Looking into its crystal ball, Gartner Group has predicted that Google’s Android will become the second largest smartphone platform by 2012. Problem is, nobody’s talking about how terrible Gartner is at predicting things, or that Gartner’s “research” has historically been paid for by special interests. So why the headlines?
Sure, Gartner has come out recently and predicted a short life span for the remains of Windows Mobile, or as Microsoft likes to call it these days, “Windows Phone,” as if Windows still has some cachet in the wake of Windows Vista. (Recall that this is the same vendor that intentionally avoided any association of its tired Windows brand with Xbox or Zune.) The fact that Android, not WiMo, is being chatted up by Gartner is almost newsworthy.
But calling Windows Mobile a dud at this point isn’t very bold, even for Gartner, a group that has dutifully suckled the teat of Bill Gates throughout a series of sour spells. Microsoft’s shill budget for Windows Mobile is probably as sad as the beleaguered mobile platform’s web browser. That would certainly explain why a Gartner analyst wrote a month ago that he was “concerned about its future and I worry that WM7 [in 2010] could even be the last throw of the dice [for Microsoft].”
Why would Gartner be “concerned” about a mobile platform? Because Microsoft pays Gartner to be concerned, and when the last of the coins fall out of the WiMo wallet, Gartner analysts have to be concerned about who will be paying for their shill skills going forward. Certainly neither Apple nor the FOSS community is going to be stepping up to the plate.
In contrast with Gartner’s dim view of Windows Mobile, iSuppli (another notorious font of news that always just happens to be unflattering to Apple) has decided that Windows Mobile will rise like a phoenix to become a 67.9 million unit per year business by 2013, putting it in second place instead. How this could possibly happen was attributed to the idea that “Windows Mobile holds some major cards that will allow it to remain a competitive player in the market,” despite having been abandoned by Palm and Motorola and sidelined by nearly all of its other licensees. And the fact that WiMo has never really been a “competitive player in the market.” Apparently LG’s boring stable of phones is key to propelling Microsoft back into relevance in the minds of iSuppli’s analysts.
The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile
A time to shill
Gartner doesn’t say such ridiculous things unless it is fully compensated to do so. Back in 1998 when Windows NT 5 was slipping behind (before it would optimistically be renamed “Windows 2000”), Gartner was assigned the task of championing the adoption of Windows 98 by corporations. What troopers these complicit paid-to-say suits were. If you weren’t paying attention back then, suffice it to say that Windows 98 was such a dog that it would have been remembered as the worst version of Windows of all time had it not have been succeeded by the even worse 98-SE and then Windows Me.
In one of Microsoft’s antitrust suits, Gartner’s core competency as a shill group was detailed when confidential internal memos surfaced showing that Microsoft had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort that “successfully lobbied and changed the Gartner Group TCO [Total Cost of Ownership] model to show Windows as providing the lowest overall TCO [in comparison to NCs].”
At the time, Microsoft was desperately afraid of the NC, the new “Network Computers” being pushed by IBM and Sun that it feared would replace Windows PCs with basic terminals that actually did the same thing as a Windows PC without requiring a license from Microsoft. Even worse, NCs threatened Microsoft’s strategy to migrate its existing DOS-based PC monopoly to Windows NT. Microsoft paid mightily to fund the demise of the cost effective NC.
“We will spend a considerable amount of our time focused on educating the press about the pitfalls of the NC in order to generate ‘the NC is Dead’ press articles,” wrote Microsoft’s Keith White of the Windows marketing team. “We will be delivering monthly Windows TCO wins to the press, as well as NC trial/rejecter case studies.”
And of course, ever since then Microsoft has been working with Gartner and similar groups to buy airtime. “Analysts sell out – that’s their business model,” explains one of Microsoft’s manuals on evangelism. “But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.”
Does that mean Gartner is now backing Android just to give itself an appearance of objectivity?
Why is being second place news?
Oddly, Gartner’s press release didn’t trumpet Symbian as retaining its leading position in smartphones; the headlines were all about Android being in second place. Why? Well there’s no chance Windows Mobile is going to be in second place in another three years, and Apple doesn’t pay Gartner to generate billowing smokescreens. If WiMo does indeed die next year, that means Gartner’s shills will need new sellout partners. Android is the most likely to support Gartner, not because Google is known to shill, but because the platform represents hardware makers that might be.
In contrast, RIM and Apple largely live or die on the merits of their products, not on the spin that chattering analysts can give their products. Tomorrow’s Android makers are today’s Windows Mobile makers, and Gartner is just doing the best it can to keep Windows Mobile alive in principle, even as the life is draining out of its frail earthly corpse.
Back in 2005, Gartner predicted something completely different. “Gartner Group’s leading analysts, Nick Jones and John Girard, are predicting big trouble for Symbian when Microsoft finally releases its Magneto release of Windows for Smartphones some time in Q3-Q4 2005.” In other words, Microsoft was going to take over in smartphones as soon as it could manage to ship Windows Mobile 5.
Was it because WiMo 5 was offering some great new level of sophistication? “[WiMo 5] Magneto,” Gartner’s shills said, “will effectively fix the bugs and fill the holes in the current version of Windows for Smartphones [oh my sides hurt, tehee]. That will mean the difference between the two offerings [WiMo and Symbian] will be largely down to marketing – an area where the Beast of Redmond is acknowledged to enjoy a lead.” So Microsoft was going to out-market Symbian with its superior vaporware.
Today, Gartner can’t make such ridiculous claims, even if there is another vaporware WiMo version around the corner. Microsoft’s market share has shriveled up as smartphone sales in general have grown dramatically. The company has demonstrated it has no capacity to deliver anything of value even after having two years to copy the iPhone. With no shill funding likely to pour in from Symbian, Gartner has to pick a number two, and you knew it wouldn’t be Apple.
Even so, Gartner is predicting that Apple will be selling 71.6 million iPhones per year in 2012. That’s huge, more than even iSuppi fantasizes WiMo will sell the year after that. So far, Apple has “only” sold 30 million iPhones since it went on sale more than two years ago. How do you beat that kind of performance? Easy, you just pull a bigger number out of a hat. Gartner doesn’t figure in sales of the iPod touch, which is currently selling two units for every three iPhones, as that would distract from the message at hand: that the iPhone won’t be number two. Instead, Gartner says all Android makers will reach combined annual sales of “about” 76 million.
Whew! Without that extra five thrown in there, Gartner would have had to report that Apple was fated to be, not just the single largest vendor outside of Symbian, but also the second largest platform. What kind of self-serving headline would that be for a group committed to badmouthing Apple as a company that fails to play the vaporware/analyst game?
Any why wasn’t anyone at all critical of Gartner’s “research,” given that it basically says iPhone and Android will be tied at 70-some million, and that BlackBerry, WiMo and Palm WebOS will all be tied within a hair of 12 million? Does this not smack of extreme silliness? I mean really, the Palm Pre’s WebOS is going to match RIM’s sales within a couple years? How and why? Nobody cares about the Palm Pre now that it has clearly failed to kill the iPhone as predicted. It will take its place next to the 2007 LG Prada and OpenMoko and the 2008 BlackBerry Storm in the “iPhone killers hall of shame.” Gartner’s numbers are as contrived as the plot of a Christmas-themed children’s movie.
Outlook not so good
Perhaps Gartner should stick to near term predictions, given that the analyst involved in this doodling, Ken Dulaney, isn’t exactly clairvoyant. Just weeks before Apple announced its broad initiative to target iPhone 2.0 at enterprise users, Dulaney wrote, “We’re telling IT executives to not support [the iPhone] because Apple has no intentions of supporting [iPhone use in] the enterprise.” He was forced to scramble a retraction calling Apple’s software update “a technological advance rarely seen in the industry.”
Of course, Dulaney was speaking of advances relative to those delivered by Microsoft, the company that spent ten years cloning the Mac, a decade trying to get NT to the point where it could be sold to consumers, and which has spent nearly as long releasing Windows 7 (if you count Vista as a big public beta, which it makes sense to do). So yes, from that perspective, an annual software update is mind-blowing stuff.
Had Gartner not served as Microsoft’s mouthpiece in badmouthing OS/2, NCs, Macs, and everything open source-related (or just not Microsoft-related) to enterprise users all these years, perhaps the company’s analysts wouldn’t be blown away by “technological advances” that happen every year. Of course, had it not done all that damage, the company wouldn’t have ever got all those millions of shill dollars for keeping Microsoft’s terrible products in the headlines.