If you read my rant about analyst firms and their often skewed or outdated views on the mobile device market last week, then you have a pretty good idea of what I think on this subject. My diatribe was set off by Canalys’ recent report on smartphone shipments from the 3rd quarter of this year, […]
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Well, at least Gartner is starting to get the picture

If you read my rant about analyst firms and their often skewed or outdated views on the mobile device market last week, then you have a pretty good idea of what I think on this subject. My diatribe was set off by Canalys’ recent report on smartphone shipments from the 3rd quarter of this year, but that report was just par for the course. In a nutshell, it provided only one way of looking at the data, and made some pretty grandiose statements based on it. But as I already said, that is par for the course when it comes to most analyst reports on the mobile market.

As part of my earlier article, I asked a couple of simple questions- why can’t we get a single report that breaks down the sales or shipping numbers in multiple ways? Even more important, why can’t analysts get beyond looking at the smartphone market alone, when there are already non-smartphone devices on the top 3 mobile OSs in worldwide sales, with a tablet device headed to 4th place RIM very soon, as well. Apple’s iPod Touch and iPad lines have shown the sales potential of connected media devices, and the new Apple TV running iOS is also off to a strong start. The competition certainly isn’t standing still either, as a host of tablets running Android, multiple devices using the Google TV platform, and the RIM Playbook are either here or well on their way. It just doesn’t make any sense to ignore what is coming around the next bend in the road.

Well, a couple of days ago Gartner released their 3rd Quarter mobile phone sales report, and it is actually a step in the right direction. While they didn’t go to the trouble of breaking down individual phone model sales as I suggested in my article, they did provide statistics broken down by manufacturer, as well as OS. The numbers actually look a little different than Canalys’, since Gartner’s report was based on the mobile phone market as a whole, not just smartphones alone. However, it actually paint a similar picture when you take the addition of feature phones into account. Gartner just does a much better job of objectively presenting the data and drawing more reasonable conclusions based on it.

Speaking of conclusions, it is the end of the Gartner report that gives me hope that someone understands what is going on in the media device market. Here is an excerpt from the closing section of Gartner’s report, titled What’s Next:

For 2010, Gartner now expects overall devices sales to show over 30 percent year-on-year growth fueled by white-box manufacturers. The impact of media tablets on mobile device sales will be tested in 2011. Gartner forecasts that media tablets (such as the Apple iPad) will reach 54.8 million units in 2011.

“Apple’s dramatic expansion of iOS with the iPad and the continuing success of the iPod Touch are important sales achievements in their own right. But more importantly they contribute to the strength of Apple’s ecosystem and the iPhone in a way that smartphone-only manufacturers cannot compete with,” Ms. Milanesi said. “To a developer, the iPod Touch and iPhone (and to a lesser extent the iPad) are effectively the same device and a single market opportunity. While Android is increasingly available on media tablets and media players like the Galaxy Player, it lags far behind iOS’s multi-device presence. Apple claims it is activating around 275,000 iOS devices per day on average — that’s a compelling market for any developer. And developers’ applications in turn attract users.”

Finally, we see some recognition given to non-smartphone devices and the potential they hold to change the dynamics of this market. I also have to agree with Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner’s statement that it is the ecosystem that these devices together create and strengthen that matters. That strong ecosystem, in turn, attracts developers. The apps that the developers create become part of the ecosystem and strengthen it further, which attracts more customers. Once customers adopt a platform, they invest in the services that their chosen OS and its ecosystem provides, and that is the whole point of this game, right?. Whether it is Apple’s App Store, iTunes, and their associated record company and media content deals, RIM’s BES and Blackberry Messenger platforms, or Android’s Market, integrated Google services, and the possible reach of its new Google TV initiative, each of these companies is using their multiple platforms and devices to drive their prime services into the waiting arms of consumers.

While this report gives me hope that analysts may finally be seeing the light, Gartner only talked about non-smartphone devices and how they are “What’s Next.” They didn’t actually combine any of the sales data together as part of the report. Alright Gartner, and all you other analysts out there. Next quarter, take the next step and don’t just talk about it, but give us a look at all of the data in one single report.

Now, I know how Apple is. They don’t always play nice with everyone. Maybe they aren’t willing to provide all the detailed quarterly sales and shipping numbers for the iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple TV. If they won’t provide the necessary data, the analysts need to call them on it in their reports. Then they need to put Apple’s competitors numbers in them, which I’m sure they will all be happy to provide to spite Apple. Sure, you may be the subject of a Steve Jobs rant in the middle of a conference call in the short term. However, even Steve Jobs would eventually have to see that, if your company has the lead in the mobile device market share arms race and it isn’t being properly reported, you don’t hide the information that is in your favor. You shout it from the rooftops. Even better, let other organizations do it for you. Releasing detailed device sales and shipping numbers is in Apple’s best interest, as well as the analyst’s, the consumer’s, and the rest of the device market’s as a whole. At least I have a little more hope today than I did last week that this might actually happen. Then we can get a clearer look at where mobile and media technology are headed in the near future.

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