It really was a matter of time until someone would question the value of market forecasts that aim to predict the shipment volume of a product segment that has not left its disruptive phase yet and is likely to change its pace several times a year. Can you trust those four-year forecasts that now expect Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Phone market share to surpass Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iOS smartphone market share by 2015?
Let's be realistic: You can't. But there is a traditional value in those forecasts, especially if you work in this industry and need to justify an investment in a particular product or service. We know that Gartner does not have a time machine from which it pulled back its analysts from 2015 and can now guarantee those numbers. Seriously, they are a best guess from today's view and therefore a limited tool for product planning.
Of course, we don't know how Gartner can come to a conclusion that Windows Phone will the second most popular smartphone platform by 2015, and quite frankly, I don't really care if Gartner is right or wrong. However, it is not unexpected that Apple Insider does not agree with that forecast and questions its foundation. The Gartner press release is a perfect example of a way to shoot yourself in the foot: It isn't particularly difficult to poke holes in Gartner's public conclusions -- there is just no reason to believe that Windows Phone will grow past Apple's iOS, and it is even more stunning that the analysts basically predict that WebOS is already dead.
We have questioned tablet shipment number forecasts a while ago and were chastised by analysts for our opinion and were heavily criticized by the analyst community. However, we are concerned that those numbers change virtually every month and that if you were to base your business on those forecasts, you'd probably be bankrupt within half a year. Those forecasts seem to have little value for businesses at this time.
Can we please return to some common sense? It is impossible to predict tablet and smartphone shipment numbers on a platform foundation four years into the future. Anyone who buys those numbers and takes them for fact has a serious reality-recognition issue. I tend to think that a 12-month outlook is much more valuable, as it can take current business and economic trends into account. Do we know how the economy will look in four years? Do we know what earth-shattering technologies will be invented and who will invent them down the road? These are just a few variables that can turn any forecast upside down. Let's keep that in mind.
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