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Unforeseeable growth: Analyst failure on iPad as indicator of disruptive change

Professional analysts’ first year iPad unit forecasts (sourced from TMO Finance Board)

  • Brian Marshall, Broadpoint AmTech   7.0
  • David Bailey, Goldman Sachs           6.2
  • Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley     6.0
  • Shaw Wu, Kauffman Bros.              5.0
  • Mike Abramsky, RBC Capital Markets   5.0
  • Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray           3.5
  • Ben Reitzes, Barclays Capital           2.9
  • Keith Bachman, BMO Capital         2.5
  • Jeff Fidacaro, Susquehanna           2.1
  • Chris Whitmore, Deutsche Bank       2.0
  • Scott Craig, Merrill Lynch               1.2
  • Peter Misek, Canaccord Adams       1.2
  • Doug Reid, Thomas Weisel             1.1
  • Yair Reiner, Oppenheimer             1.1

Here are the predictions from Tech Bloggers:

  • Clayton Morris: 9
  • John Gruber: 8
  • Horace Dediu: 6
  • Natali Del Conte: 5
  • Ross Rubin: 5
  • Mike Rose: 4.5-5
  • Jason Snell: 3
  • Andy Ihnatko: 3

Apple sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010.

I sometimes use the phrase “unforeseeable growth” to describe the kind of growth that not even the most knowledgeable observers of a market can predict. It’s usually an indicator that fundamentally transformational change is taking place.

It’s not a sufficient condition, but it’s clear that “nobody saw it coming” is a common refrain when disruptions are seen in the rear-view mirror.

If analysts, to a man, fail, you can be sure that competitors are no wiser. This collective shrug amounts to the greatest competitive advantage any entrant could ever hope to obtain.