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Notebooks Will Continue to Dominate Mobile Device Market Through 2015, Forrester Says

There’s a new report out today from NPD/DisplaySearch, and it’s generating a lot of buzz. NPD is predicting that tablets will overtake notebooks by 2016 as the dominant mobile device. (TechCrunch has a good writeup on this, of you’re interested.)

I’ve never liked market predictions like this, so today I decided to dig up an old one and show just how inaccurate the predictions can be. After a few minutes Googling, I came across a similar report from Forrester. This one got a lot of attention when it was released in mid-2010 – just as much attention as the NPD report is getting today.

BTW, today’s report says pretty much the same thing that NPD/DisplaySearch said in a similar report 2 months ago. With that in mind, I’m not sure today’s news really qualifies as news.

But the Forrester report, now that’s worth a look. Back in 2010, Forrester predicted that in 2015 notebooks would have the dominant share of the US device market (42%), with tablets coming in second at 23% and desktops and netbooks fighting it out for 3rd place (18% and 17%, respectively).

If you go check out today’s news on TechCrunch, you’ll see that the Forrester prediction was not only wrong but gloriously wrong. First, there hardly is a netbook market anymore; that got swallowed up by either the tablet or notebook segments. But more importantly, Forrester completely missed the gradually improvements in Android tablets as well as the continued  explosive growth in iPad sales.

See, it’s things like this which make me doubt the value of market predictions. We’re still in the dawn of the tablet market, and that by definition would tend to make it unpredictable. New innovations come out from one month to the next – any one of which can upset the entire market.

For example, just a few short weeks ago Microsoft unveiled the Surface tablet. No one has really had a chance to use it for any length of time, so we don’t really know where it fits in to the market. And then there’s the Nexus 7. It’s cheaper and better than anything else on the Android market, so clearly it’s going to cause a shake up as other manufacturers drop prices and release better devices.

Okay, that last sentence is rather obvious, but do you really think you can turn that sentence from a vague pronouncement into a prediction on the number of tablets sold? Forrester did, and look how wrong they were.

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