As the holidays approach and New Years not long beyond, analysts turn ESPers as they try to predict the future. Sometimes, the predictions are so crazed, they’re somewhere between alcoholically induced and reaching into an alternative universe where reality beats to other drums. The best measure of accuracy for the future is the past — what analysts predicted for 2009.
I’ve randomly picked five that show just how wrong the predictions can be. Keep them in mind when reading 2010 predictions, like IDC’s audacious claim that iPhone applications will triple — to 300,000 — by end of 2010.
1. “Christmas 2008: The Last Year of the Retail CD” was a report Gartner announced on Dec. 22, 2008. We all know that digital downloads are big, big, big. But retail CD sales aren’t just continuing to sell, they got a boost late year from the remastered Beatles’ collection. That’s right, the songs are available only on CD and not for digital download (legally anyway). The CD’s days may yet be numbered, but I predict retailers will still have plenty to sell for Holiday 2010 and beyond. Hey, people still buy vinyl.
2. Consumers will “go on social media diets.” Nielsen predicted that consumers would cut back social media connections at services like Facebook and Twitter: “Less may well become the new more.” Less? Facebook went from about 150 million subscribers in early 2009 to over 350 million in December. Facebookers post 55 million status messages a day. Twitter literally exploded in 2009, going from about 9 million unique visitors in February to more than 58 million in October. Yes, there was a September-October decline, but overall Twitter was way up for the year.
3. “It will be a grim year for mobile gadgets as consumer spending shrinks and vendors cut prices (and margins) to capture or maintain market share,” IDC predicted in December 2008. Apple shipped more than 31 million iPods through third quarter compared to more than 32 million a year earlier. For first three quarters 2009, Apple shipped more than 16 million iPhone. Smartphone shipments rose double digits every quarter, and manufacturers introduced a bunch of new ones in third and fourth quarter. Sure, it wasn’t a great year for Nintendo DS or Sony PSP — and Nokia gave up N-Gage — but more because of Apple competition than consumer spending.
4. “Google will see search share decline significantly for the first time ever,” search analyst John Battelle predicted on January 9. “It will also struggle to find an answer to the question of how it diversifies its revenue in 2009.” Ah, yeah. In January, Google US search share was 63 percent, according to ComScore. October: 65.4 percent. That’s a significant decline?
5. “Babies born in 2009 will be immortal,” Ferris Research predicted in January. Well, neither of us may live long enough to find out.
As a rule, I don’t make yearly predictions (so that no one does to me what I did to these analysts). I usually make a list of recommendations, such as that Microsoft open a retail store, in 2007 and 2008. Did you make or read an outrageous 2009 prediction that just didn’t make it? Please share in comments.