News came out last week that the analyst group IDC have yet again dropped their forecast for the future sales of laptop and desktop PCs, so that they are now predicting that sales of new devices will remain essentially flat for the next 4-5 years. As The Guardian put it – the PC boom is over.
Whilst their punditry makes for interesting reading, the history of their punditry is far more entertaining. Put simply, their track record so far seems to indicate that they don’t really know any more than you or I as to what the future holds.
Only two years ago they were predicting that annual PC sales would be in the order of million units globally. Today they tell us that it will be 320 million or so. That’s a very big variation – and is a very good example of the truth that if you want to predict the future, you are best off saying it’ll probably be pretty much the same as it is today.
One could argue that predicting four years into the future (as they were in 2011 with the 2015 541 million number) is a very long way off. But four years is around average business refresh cycle for hardware (a bit short I’d imagine, if anything) so these kind of forecasts aren’t in particularly fast moving marketing (it’s not a railway, but there again it’s not social networks either).
You could say that back in September 2011 the coming touchscreen revolution was still some way off – but the iPad had been in market for around 18 months, and by the end of that year some 60 million units had been shipped.
In fact making excuses for the poor performance of analyst groups is really odd, because it’s their jobs to predict. But it seems that we simple creatures are terribly pre-programmed to want to believe that someone can tell us the future and so we do all still listen, even though they aren’t very good at it.