Daniel Eran Dilger
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Three years ago Gartner predicted Apple would go nowhere in smartphones

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?

  • kyle braund

    makes you wonder if investors who follow Gartner ever look back at G’s gaffes …..obviously G doesn’t! Thank God someone takes the time (Daniel :))

  • http://scottworldblog.wordpress.com scotty321

    Love it!! Daniel, as far as I’m concerned, you should be the ONLY tech columnist allowed to post articles on the Internet.

  • ericgen


  • airmanchairman

    “How many times will Gartner get to do that again?”

    For as long as the rabble known as the worldwide tech community is prepared to continually mortgage its collective conscience to rubber-stamp and give authority to irrational and debasing acts of false and unethical analyses, that’s how long.

    In short, forever and a day…

    Silly Human Race.

  • http://madhatter.ca The Mad Hatter

    How many times will Gartner get to do that again?

    As many times as Microsoft can pay for.


  • bft

    Please, please, please write a political column.

    Your style just begs to be used on the fox news wing-nuts.

  • http://madhatter.ca The Mad Hatter


    Please don’t insult wing-nuts by comparing them to Fox News.


  • Benny

    I’m not sure if your article refers to US or global shipments but if you had predicted Apple would lead the market you would also have been miserably wrong. All share data I’ve seen says Android has around 70% share of global smartphones and Apple around 15%. This is in fact exactly what happened to Apple with the PC but instead of MS killing them, it’s Google. Gartner was wrong about Nokia but they were right to suggest Apple would be marginalised because businesses don’t like them, Asia doesn’t like them, and people not willing to pay extra for a brand don’t like them

    [What is “Android” and who makes the money on it? If you’re talking about “Android” as the series of incompatible platforms that use software contributed by Google and others, then you might as well get more vague and call it “Linux” and claim even more devices in the pool, like Tivo and routers. Or broaden things a bit further by calling it “Unix & Unix-like software,” then you can add Apple too. Or just call it “software modeled on Unix and DOS” and you can count all forms of Windows. And now you can say “that” WON!!!!

    But that is just as meaningless as combining the sales of a bunch of companies who make a product running a more specific type of software that doesn’t profit anyone. Why are you doing that? Why is it interesting or useful to describe some proportion of Amazon, LG, Samsung, Sony, HTC, and ZTE with all of Motorola’s sales?

    If they all ran the same API level/version, then you could say it has a software platform, but they don’t necessarily. “Android” doesn’t mean anything that “Windows PC” meant, but at least Windows commercially benefitted Microsoft.

    And then on top of that, the only way adding up “Android” becomes a big number is if you are counting a bunch of featurephones and locked devices. You have to really search for numbers to support the idea that “Android” is a software platform. I mean, if it’s so big, why is the market for Android software such a mess? Google Play is like a Goodwill store or a garage sale. If it were really a platform with 70% of sales, it would look like the iPod or Windows, not an Occupy camp – Dan]

  • kdaeseok

    Don’t be so harsh on Gartner. You also said things like iPad doesn’t need a camera, iPad will kill kindle, Nintendo DS, MS Office and 7 inch tablets are doomed. That was worthlessly wrong, but we don’t blame you- do we? ;)

  • Benny

    You can say what you like about Android, I’m not a fanboy, only interested in the competing business models. Google probably loses money on Android but do they clip the ticket in Play? I’m not sure but if they do, they would prefer to have a 70% share with a free, open OS on any device than Apple’s less than 15%.

    They also know that emerging markets want low cost devices so a free OS helps keep costs down, multiple HW partners stimulates competition, and low prices drive adoption of Android…and more Play sales. Android, or more importantly Play, is on 80% of smartphones shipped in China. Apple has 6% share there.

    I’m not saying Apple is unsuccessful, obviously they are making money and people buy their products and their stock. The point I’m making is that the headline states “Gartner predicted Apple would go nowhere in smartphones” but they weren’t far off in forecasting its long term market share – you say they predicted 13% and now it’s around 15%. To me, 10-15% isn’t such a bad share in a crowded market place but that was your headline not mine.

  • gus2000

    Gartner continues in the marketplace because they provide a valuable service. Anyone can write about verifiable facts, but it takes the right mix of creativity, talent, and chutzpah to invent facts out of thin air.

  • Mike

    Posted by kdaeseok:
    Don’t be so harsh on Gartner. You also said things like iPad doesn’t need a camera, iPad will kill kindle, Nintendo DS, MS Office and 7 inch tablets are doomed. That was worthlessly wrong, but we don’t blame you- do we? ;)

    Actually, the Nintendo DS is failing to sell (just look at the last year Nintendo has spent in the red), MS Office is starting to slip in sales (hence the license restrictions on Windows 8 and RT), iPad totally dominated over Kindle sales (why Amazon decided to introduce a Kindle Fire), and the camera excuse was one I’ll give you, because that was invented by Apple as an excuse not to include it in the first gen iPad. I figure they’ll need something to improve upon for the 2nd and 3rd gen ;)

  • kdaeseok

    Not true. 3DS is selling faster than DS.

    iPad never affected Kindle (ebook reader) sales. They sold more and more kindle devices since iPad launched and now e-books sell more than paperback.

    Dan’s words: eReaders. Oh the Kindle, we hardly knew ye. And the Sony Reader and the B&N Nook. Your e-ink screens pleased pundits and the cat ladies who sit around reading novel after novel, but it was a remarkably limited technology. The rest of your hardware and software was pretty marginal, so it’s hard to weep. Dead.

    [So you’re predicting that e-ink readers are going to surge and become important? I wonder why Amazon is shifting its Kindle lineup to look exactly like Apple’s, with LCD screens that it once claimed were hard to read. – Dan]

  • Mike

    It’s not that Kindles aren’t selling, it’s that they’re being overshadowed by iPad sales. So yes, while dedicated eReaders have their place in the market, iPads are far more versatile, and that explains why they’re more popular than Kindles as well. So Amazon seeing the future of dedicated eReaders being limited to a subset of the population decides to put out a Kindle Fire with an LCD screen.

    As far as Nintendo, it’s pretty well known that even though sales are up, profits are down. It doesn’t matter how much you’re selling if you’re losing money, certainly to investors at the very least.

  • kdaeseok

    Kindle as an ebook reader is a different product to an iPad. Only Dan has a problem understanding it. You can install a free kindle app on an iPad, an iphone, an Android tablet/phone or even on a PC. Did that make Kindle reader as an obsolete product? You tell me.