Questioning the Value of Phone Forecasts

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Perhaps the classic grist for the tech journalism mill is the analyst report, especially one that includes forecasts in the form of pretty graphs. But you can't take them too seriously, argues Matthew Miller at ZDNet.

After looking more closely at and thinking further about the latest Gartner predictions that show Symbian falling 10% over the next four years, Android rising 12%, RIM falling 6%, iOS falling 0.5%, and Windows Phone falling 0.8%

I have to say I think these type of forecast reports are interesting to talk about and discuss, but should not be taken too seriously. The smartphone market is not like the PC market. The smartphone market moves very fast and just because one platform is extremely popular at the moment and shows major growth does not mean it will continue for years.

Another way of putting this would be that you can take forecasts seriously, but only as quantifications of current market movements. That would actually be how most serious futurologists would want their work to be seen: a reflection of the now rather than a crystal ball into the future. We know that nearly every precise prediction is wrong and that divining the future is futile, but that doesn't mean extrapolating trends isn't useful. 

Read the full story at ZDNet.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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