iPads are not computers, Google does not do hardware, Facebook Phone and other predictions

EXCLUSIVE! Called it! First! We analysts love to point out what we got right. Rarely do we admit when we are wrong. If you look back over the past eighteen months, however, you will note that those of us who engage in mobile industry speculation are wrong nearly as often as we are right.

Consider this my confession – given on behalf of the entire fraternity. These are what I consider to be our biggest flubs:

The Facebook Phone

How did we get this one so wrong? Of course, this should have been a slam dunk. With the most used app on iOS and Android, over a billion users, and more users actively checking-in regularly via mobile than desktop, it seemed only logical that Facebook would develop not only the fabled “Facebook Phone” but offer a highly robust, developer-friendly Facebook Phone OS. All the ingredients are there: a fork of Android, sticky social media, a newsfeed, chat, Instagram, gaming, homegrown apps and more. Facebook are a cornerstone of user identity on the web. Facebook are working on ways to replace email and even calling via phone numbers. Facebook’s money comes from ads. Add it all up and there simply must be a Facebook Phone! Only, there is no Facebook Phone, not really, nor a Facebook Phone OS.

Bonus confession: I don’t think we analysts got this one wrong. I think Facebook’s engineers just aren’t very good at mobile.

Android fragmentation will solve itself

Fanboys insisted that fragmentation on Android either did not matter or would resolve itself in time. Wrong on both counts. Fragmentation creates a lesser user experience, reduces the value of the device, and ensures that the top app developers will continue to focus on iPhone first. Fragmentation may not matter much to Android’s maker, Google, but for actual users, it’s a sad state of affairs with little hope of resolution.

Google can’t make hardware

While some reviewers panned it, the Nexus 4 is a stellar device. If you must have a tablet that is not iPad, your best bet is probably a Nexus. True, Google makes these in conjunction with hardware companies, such as LG, but do not be fooled: these are made to Google’s specifications. What’s more, Google seems intent on extracting value from their Motorola acquisition. The rumored “xPhone” will be made entirely by Google, hardware included. Google Glass is all their own. Google is learning hardware. Everyone else, beware.

Just wait till Microsoft responds

It may be hard to believe now, but years ago Microsoft mattered, at least when it came to “smartphones” and the mobile web. Many of us in the industry logically assumed that Microsoft would always matter in this largest and most personal of computing markets. They do not. Windows Phone begins 2013 with less than a 5% market share. Apple, Samsung and Google have nothing to fear.

The iPad is a consumption device

I am guilt-free on this one. Many astute analysts, however, convinced themselves and far too many others that the iPad was a toy, a “media consumption” device. Only recently did the larger analyst firms even begin counting the iPad as a computer. Some still do not! As if Apple cares. Apple sold a record 23 million iPads just last quarter. There are hundreds of thousands of apps for iPad, enabling users – including doctors, filmmakers, students – to better perform their work, to extend their creative abilities, to out-compete.

Led by the iPad, tablets are outselling desktop PCs and will soon outsell laptops. The iPad is replacing cash registers, video projectors, textbooks, the department store window and so much more. The tablet revolution has only just begun.

The app is doomed

The smartphone is fast becoming our primary gateway to the web. The app is our primary gateway to the smartphone. The iPhone launched the app revolution. Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry all followed. Smart move. Consider that there are hundreds of thousands of apps available for both the App Store and Google Play. The App Store alone experienced 20 billion app downloads just in 2012. The numbers are staggering. Yet despite the astounding success of the app, analysts still insist – foolishly – that HTML5 will come to rule the mobile web. They still believe that the native app will prove too costly and/or cumbersome. They still believe in the utopian vision of write once read anywhere. HTML5 is what delayed so many of Facebook’s efforts, before Mark Zuckerberg was finally convinced to go native. The app rules and will for a long time.

AR the Next Big Thing

We were so wrong on this prediction that I probably have to tell you what AR actually means: augmented reality. According to Wikipedia, “Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.”

In other words, point your smartphone at a nearby street corner and find out when the next bus will arrive. Point your smartphone at a house and discover how much it costs – the information relayed instantly to your screen. The uses for augmented reality are as infinite as its potential. Nearly all of which has yet to be unleashed. I wonder now if AR will ever matter.

Apple is doomed

Analysts never seem to tire of uncovering any new datapoint as proof – proof! – that Apple is doomed. Google Maps is superior! Android market share is now over 50%! Samsung is cool! Steve Jobs is dead! Cheap phones will kill iPhone!

Nonsense. Last quarter, Apple had the world’s best selling tablet, the world’s best selling smartphone – the iPhone 5 – and the world’s second best selling smartphone, the iPhone 4S. In its most recent earnings statement, iPad sales were a record. iPhone sales were a record, total revenues were a record. Apple’s profits are higher than Microsoft, higher than Google, more than Samsung. “Apple is doomed” is nothing more than linkbait.

The Ballmer Effect

What do you consider the industry’s worst predictions? Has anyone ever been more wrong about the future of wireless than Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, who famously said of the iPhone:

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.”

Leave your comments below.

Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at www.brianshall.com.

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  • http://www.BarnesFamily.com/ davebarnes

    You need to stop being so cruel to Steve Ballmer via à vis the iPhone.

  • Gandhi

    Why? Ballmer earned every bit of scorn directed at him for being so totally off on the touch based mobile phone revolution.