The iPad is still only slightly more than a year and a half old. Forecasting unit volumes has proven very difficult. But more than that it’s proven very difficult to appreciate the impact on the market it’s disrupting, PCs.
For some people this is obvious, but what if you don’t live and breathe disruptive theory? What if you don’t watch every data source like a hawk for hints of change? What if you are not even a technologist. How would you form an opinion on the effect of the iPad on PCs?
There are many industries and sectors about which I know nothing. If you asked me to analyze a market like industrial lubricants, I’d probably start by reading the consensus opinion put forward by the leading market analyst, an expert in that particular sector. That would form the baseline.
In the PC sector, that opinion is formed by Gartner (and IDC and Forrester perhaps). Gartner will get a lot of citations and its stats and opinion forms the baseline view. It may not be right, but we can expect it to be the “consensus”. This is because Gartner surveys a lot of data and interacts with a lot of insiders in the industry. They collect and weigh these inputs and put out what is likely to balance them all.
If Gartner says that the iPad is a “media tablet” that is not a PC they may be wrong. But they are also repeating what the PC industry is saying. So I value Gartner as a reflection of the consensus. If there is a significant gap between Gartner and what I conclude to be reality then there is an interesting opportunity as well as evidence of incumbent ignorance.
Let’s then look back on how Gartner has been reporting the iPad’s rise and the PC’s decline.