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Strategy Analytics and Long Term Accountability

2012.04.01   prev     next

STRATEGY Analytics, in case you hadn’t already heard, is having a field day by reporting shipments of non-Apple tablets as “market share.” Using this trick, they reported Apple’s U.S. tablet “market share” as only 68% in Q4 2010, then said it dropped to 58% in Q4 2011. Naturally, this “statistic” was repeated ad nauseum throughout the not-so-Apple-friendly tech media.

If Strategy Analytics subtracted unsold merchandise from their new figures, say, two years after it was manufactured, then I would still say they’re front-loading shipments in a way that’s intended to artificially inflate non-Apple products in the short run. But at least I would have to give them some credit for having long-term accountability in their system. I would have to acknowledge that unsold merchandise “comes due” in a couple years, canceling out new shipments, and bringing Strategy Analytics market share figures into line with reality in the long run.

But guess what: They’re not even doing that. Strategy Analytics simply reports this year’s shipments as “market share,” and then forgets about it. And they do the same thing the next year. Who cares if any of those products actually sold? Did they wind up in a warehouse, unopened? Did they get returned to the manufacturer? Were they buried in a landfill, or shipped overseas to be sold for whatever they can get? Were they fire-saled off in the U.S. at a fraction of their manufacturing cost? Who knows? Who cares. As long as it shipped from the factory where it was made, into the U.S. channel, it’s U.S. market share! Hurrah.

Apple is selling many of its products (including iPads) about as fast as it can make them. And in any case, Apple keeps tight supply lines, never overproducing a product so large quantities of it sit unsold in a warehouse somewhere long after they had their realistic chance to be purchased by end-users.

But many would-be iPad competitors have no such discipline. They spit out half a million, or a million, or a million-five tablets, ship them into the channel, and then just watch and see what happens. Maybe they do it because they’re really optimistic about how many they’re going to sell. Maybe they do it because they want to exude confidence so consumers will want to buy their product. Or maybe, just maybe, they do it because they know that Strategy Analytics and similar ilk will immediately and happily report every one of those tablets as “market share,” and not give a crap where any of them actually wind up.

Consumer Reporting

I mentioned some time ago the likely reason that Consumer Reports tries so hard to be down on the iPhone. (And now the iPad.) And I think the same thing applies to Strategy Analytics. The simple truth of the matter is that if your job is to report data on how various products are doing (or how they stack up against each other, as in the case of Consumer Reports), then it’s really not a good thing for any one of those products to be so obviously better than the others that nobody really needs your reporting. If you’re in the business of reporting about these products, you much prefer there to be a dizzying array of similar products with no stand-out winner among them. That way, people need your service. You’re providing them with information they don’t already have.

Whereas Apple’s whole philosophy is: we should make awesome products, everyone loves to use them, everyone buys them from us, and nobody’s really worried about specs. They leave that up to Apple. Apple worries about what kind of processor the product will use; in fact, Apple makes the processor. Apple worries about how much RAM the product will have. And how much flash storage. Maybe they even make the storage (i.e. Anobit acquisition). Users don’t need to worry about how much RAM it has, because Apple makes sure it has enough to comfortably run the OS and app execution system that Apple also creates. Specs like that are things that only app developers should concern themselves with, and even then only when they’re developing their app, not when they’re deciding for which platform to develop — they should just know instinctively: this is the platform that’s really hot, and it’s the one we’re going to develop for.

That’s what Apple’s doing to the computing industry. And that’s bad for anybody who reports on the industry, because it gives them a lot less to report on, and gives consumers and investors a lot less reason to read those reports. It means Apple does the reporting; Apple does two or three big, splashy events each year, and tells everybody what they need to know. And people can go to their local Apple retail store and ask, and be told what they need to know. And the people who report on this stuff aren’t too pleased about that. The folks at Consumer Reports take great pride in how they don’t have ads, and they don’t accept free products — so we all know they’re not biased. But they’re always going to be biased towards themselves; towards inflating the apparent value of their own business of reporting this stuff.

These same guys didn’t have a problem with Microsoft ruling the roost in the 1990s. Why not? Because Microsoft didn’t make hardware. Lots of companies made Windows PCs, and typically each one of them made lots of models. And none of them were stand-out winners. So there were plenty of confused, lost consumers. And plenty of esoteric specs to report to those consumers.

 

Update 2013.07.31 — Strategy Analytics is at it again, only now they appear to be combining the “shipments” trick with other, even less honest tactics.

 

Update 2013.09.11 — From The Droid Guy:

Moto X shipping 100,000 units per week

Despite some saying the Moto X could not get off the ground, Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside has announced the company is now shipping over 100,000 units per week, a positive sign the plan is working.

Do I even need to add emphasis to a certain word in the above quotation?

 

Update 2013.09.28 — From Electronista’s “Study finds Android overtaking Apple’s iPad in tablet segment”:

Android tablets overtake iOS in shipments

Tablets running Google’s Android operating system have overtaken those running Apple’s iOS in terms of shipped devices, according to new figures from ABI Research.

ABI enjoys this game too, apparently.

 

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