Three years ago Gartner predicted Apple would go nowhere in smartphones
October 21st, 2012
Daniel Eran Dilger
Three years ago I took Gartner to task for saying that Android would pass Apple’s iOS by this point in 2012 to become the second largest mobile platform… after Nokia’s Symbian, closely followed by RIM’s Blackberry and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.
Specifically, Gartner thought Nokia would retain 40% of smartphones (it’s now at about 3%), that Android would arbitrarily be slightly ahead of Apple (at 14% vs 13%), and that Microsoft would retain 12% to tie RIM for a very close fourth place.
Monkeys on typewriters could have banged out more astute predictions on the mobile industry three years out, even if they were being waterboarded with pure LSD.
Didn’t see this happening
Back in October 2009, I didn’t lay out my own prediction stating that in three years, Apple would lead the mobile market globally in revenue, profits and market share across the broadest selection of devices.
That would have made me sound like a doe-eyed fanbot, even if Apple was clearly on track to dramatically expand upon its mobile successes while its primary competitors faced very real barriers.
I didn’t expressly state any prediction noting that three years out, no company on earth would make any serious competitive progress in taking away Apple’s iPod sales (although I had written this had historically been the case), let alone that Apple would introduce the world’s first successful tablet and that it would go on to sell in such volumes that the PC market would crumble to the point where HP, Dell and Microsoft would all slump into the same hastily dug pit while the world’s supply and demand balance of DRAM, mechanical hard drives and SoCs would all be thrown into confusion by the iPad.
I didn’t predict that Apple would slaughter RIM in the enterprise and government (markets Android hasn’t done well in at all) or crush the combined hopes of Microsoft and Nokia (which was the leading mobile phone vendor of the time). That would have all sounded a bit unrealistic in 2009.
Nobody predicted this
I also didn’t predict that the entire Android platform would limp along in fail mode (that includes LG, HTC, Sony, even Google’s own Motorola) apart from one company (Samsung) that based its success entirely upon copying Apple, leveraging its intimate supplier relationship with Apple to produce the most blatantly obvious rip-off of another company’s technology product since Microsoft’s Windows.
That’s because, at the time, it wasn’t public knowledge that Samsung was plotting to spend three months slavishly copying the iPhone to end its long losing streak in smartphones. We only know that now because the company detailed what it did in internal documents that ended up being exposed to the public by the legal system in a patent hearing.
This would be more commonly known if the tech media was as interested in reporting what really happened in the Samsung-Apple trial rather than helping Samsung and Google to propagate a web of lies that attempted to portray the case as being largely about Apple patenting round corners and rectangles. Or hinging upon a member of the jury having prior knowledge of the patent system (as if Samsung wasn’t also suing Apple over patents in the same case).
None of my business
I also didn’t predict that three years into the future, Apple would still be supporting its 2009 iPhone 3GS with new iOS software while 75 percent of the Android installed base remained stuck on a two year old version of Android 2.x, including the entire gamut of marginally successful, profitless Android tablets outside of the product Google itself gives away at cost in small numbers (although I did outline that Google was creating serious issues for Android related to its poor management of the platform, something that critics used to assail as ridiculous until it grew impossible not to agree).
I didn’t make predictions like Gartner because I wasn’t in the business of inventing preposterous numbers to flatter my clients. I’m not tasked with lying to make Microsoft look relevant. I didn’t have to carefully create figures from thin air to generate a headline that would grab attention from media wonks desperately seeking for validation of their bias for Android.
This frees me from having to make up “facts” about where the smartphone business is going, and allows me to simply observe what is currently happening. And what I’ve observed through the lens of reality since 2009 has been pretty accurate, because what I saw and reported wasn’t needing an Instagram filter to turn my poorly lit and hastily composed photo into something others would recognize as resembling something they’d seen before.
Three years ago I spent some time outlining how terrible Gartner’s predictions had been in the past, just as I forced you just now to read through several paragraphs supporting my conclusion that Gartner’s outlook on the future is so desperately contrived to support the hopes of its clients that it deserves no attention next time it makes claims about how Microsoft will bounce back in just another couple short years, so just you wait.
But think too of me: I had to wait three years to prove Gartner was worthlessly wrong in its unsupported predictions that Apple would make no further progress in three years, while dinosaurs would evolve back from virtual extinction.
How many times will Gartner get to do that again?