Predictions gone wrong: Losing bets analysts made for 2013

Analyst forecasts are meant to help IT prepare for the future. But the future doesn't always follow that script

Cast your mind back to the late 2000s -- when the iPhone 3G beguiled consumers and the iTunes App Store began shifting users' ideas about how they bought and used software, when Microsoft pros saw nothing but clear skies after Windows 7 cleared out the Windows Vista storm, when green technology was touted as a transformative force in IT.

In 2008 and 2009, professional tech forecasters made their best guesses about what IT would look like in 2013. These forecasts are often meant to help IT professionals figure out where they'll get the most bang for the buck in the historical three- to five-year timelines for IT planning.

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No company wants to sink a substantial percentage of its IT budget into a flash-in-the-pan technology -- and everyone wants to be a low-cost fast follower. Established analysts' predictions are part of how IT avoids the first fate and achieves the second.

Now that future has arrived. If IT pros had listened to the forecasts in 2008, would they have spent their money wisely or well? We plumbed the InfoWorld archive for some of the forecasts made about 2013, then tried to see how they held up in a world that's since seen the iPad and the spread of mobile working, plus the explosion of cloud computing.

Prediction No. 1: The overall market for green IT services will peak at $4.8 billion in 2013

What happened: The recession happened, and "our technology is green" went from being a goal to being a side benefit. Public cloud computing providers like Apple, Google, and Facebook may be building clean-energy facilities, but they're doing so with an eye toward reducing the bottom lines on energy consumption. In the United States, "green IT" has retreated as a market.

On the bright side, however, it looks like there's still a green IT market in India. This year, Gartner is expecting Indian companies to spend $29.2 billion on technologies like advanced metering infrastructure, carbon capture, and solar energy technology.

Prediction No. 2: PC shipments will record double-digit growth from 2009 to 2013, buoyed by growing demand for laptops and netbooks

What happened: The iPad happened in 2010, and individuals have been shifting their technology dollars to tablet technologies ever since. IDC, which made the original forecast, has tracked PC sales for this year, and the news isn't good: Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by 10.1 percent in 2013, below the previous projection of a 9.7 percent drop.

It's the most severe yearly contraction on record and reflects a truth in IT budgets: Any sales and growth in personal computers is fueled by replacement sales. The market isn't growing. Worldwide, an estimated 314 million PCs were sold this year -- far below the 444 million PCs predicted back in 2009. People are buying iPads and other tablets instead.

Prediction No. 3: Mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web-access device worldwide by 2013

What happened: Although the originator of this prediction, Gartner, didn't respond to inquiries, other firms have been tracking Web access and have shared their findings. In March 2013, Adobe released its analysis of Web traffic to more than 1,000 websites and found that 84 percent of all Web traffic came from users on desktop or laptop computers, 8 percent from tablet users, and 7 percent from smartphone users. StatCounter, which tracks visits to websites via ad network data, found that desktop usage still dominates, at 76.1 percent.

Prediction No. 4: Windows Mobile will claim 15 percent of the global smartphone market, second to the Symbian OS's 47 percent market share

What happened: Nokia got killed by iOS and Android, that's what happened. Since IHS iSuppli made this prediction in 2009, the once-dominant force in the mobile phone market was overtaken by device makers who understood the basic truth that users care more about smartphone software than they do the hardware. When Nokia began its death spiral, it took Symbian with it, which explains why the OS has a 0.1 percent market share today.

iSuppli now says Android is the leader in the smartphone OS market with a 76.5 percent share, with Apple's iOS a distant second with 14.9 percent. As for Windows Phone, Windows Mobile's successor? It's an even more distant third with 3.9 percent of the market.

Prediction No. 5: By 2013, the enterprise mashup market will reach $700 million

What happened: Enterprise mashups, which were once defined as the integration of digital data from multiple sources for business purposes, have since been rebranded. You may know them now as part of the API and big data phenomena.

Asking analyst firms about estimated market sizes for enterprise mashups in 2013 gets you a lot of "We don't measure that market" responses. However, Gartner estimates that big data will be a $34 billion market in 2014. That's 48 times greater than the original forecast for mashups. Maybe this one will be true.

This story, "Predictions gone wrong: Losing bets analysts made for 2013," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in key and emerging technologies at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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