Apple Will Sell Exactly 169,652,000 iPads in 2016

Steve Wildstrom / April 10th, 2012

Need a lesson in the difference between precision and accuracy? Head over to the Gartner web site for the latest predictions of tablet sales over the next four years. With precision down to the nearest thousand–and I suspect that only space requirements kept the last three digits out of the forecast–Gartner purports to tell us how the market will grown and how it will be divided (table below).

Table 1
Worldwide Sales of Media Tablets to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units)

 OS

2011

2012

2013

2016

iOS

39,998

72,988

99,553

169,652

Android

17,292

37,878

61,684

137,657

Microsoft

0

4,863

14,547

43,648

QNX

807

2,643

6,036

17,836

Other Operating Systems

1,919

510

637

464

Total Market

60,017

118,883

182,457

369,258

Source: Gartner (April 2012)

Many years ago when I was an editor, I needed an estimate of the GDP of the People’s Republic of China. I called the CIA–the best source for such information in those days–and  was given an estimate of something like 8,546,789,000. I asked the analyst how many of those digits were significant. “Maybe the first,” he said.

These Gartner numbers, and similar ones put out by IDC, are ridiculous, made more so by phony precision. A year ago, Gartner forecast the industry would sell 69,780,000 tablets in 2011, an estimate that proved 15% too high based on the new numbers. Last year’s sales were supposed to include 3.9 million BlackBerry PlayBooks; 807,000 were sold (listed as QNX in the table) and even that estimate strikes me as high. Missing from this year’s table are the 4.2 million TouchPads that HP was supposed to sell this year.

Fish gotta swim and analysts gotta publish estimates. But it’s really time for this embarrassing silliness to stop.

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
  • Theo

    But, hey, no one looks at old analyst reports, even fewer than read old newspaper articles…

  • Enrique Ortiz

    The title says, in 2015, the table says 2016. Which year is the forecast?

    • steve_wildstrom

      The date in the table is correct. The typo in the head will be corrected. But in a larger sense, I suppose it really doesn’t matter because one is about as likely as the other.

  • At Steve,
    Fish gotta swim at 1.634 knots.

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