Magic not needed to nail BlackBerry coffin

21 Oct 2013

As featured on TM Forum's the Insider blog.

It’s not quite Halloween but Gartner is getting ready by slamming the coffin lid on Blackberry by advising enterprises to take no more than six months to consider and implement alternatives to the platform.

Sure, the latest news of BlackBerry’s $965 million second quarter losses and plans to lay off some 4,500 of its 12,500 workers sends a pretty dire message to investors and customers alike, but should analyst firms like Gartner be so quick to write them off. After all they did sell 5.9 million smartphones in the second quarter. Not bad for a company supposedly in its death throes.

It’s one thing for the press to stick the knife in, that’s almost expected, but for a ‘respected’ analyst firm like Gartner to do so seems contrary to the goals of assessing market trends and placing firms in those ‘Magic Quadrants.’

The press makes its money by selling newspapers, online subs and advertisements. They are expected to report the news and often provide opinions that are clearly marked as opinion. The massive online contingency of bloggers, of which I am part, primarily write opinions (often with no pretence of fact or subject knowledge – present company hopefully excepted). But analyst firms make their money by selling their output to a broad range of customers hoping to get insight into market trends.

The responsibility for what they write ends with their disclaimers that should probably have a clause added – ‘buyer beware.’ How much of their output is based on historical analysis, computer projections, hearsay and even pure subjective opinion is anyone’s guess.

Some critics of Gartner have even suggested that Magic Quadrants may have even be created to favor big-spending customers, although there is no evidence to prove this. Suppliers that have felt jilted when they find their quadrant positions slipping have the right of recourse with Gartner and they are sometimes revised, even though the damage may already have been done.

As one analyst colleague told me, “remember that the Magic Quadrant is just an analytical framework, for it to be effective depends on the acumen of the analyst - the finest canvas suffers under the brush of an inadequate painter.”

Yet, those very same Magic Quadrants have for years served to steer decision-makers into the top-right-hand leaders’ open arms and will certainly have swayed C-levels into making ‘safe’ decisions. Even if they turn out to be wrong years later, who ever goes back and says that the ‘Magic Quadrant’ made me do it and it was wrong.

And how often do we see press releases from analyst firms stating that years ago we predicted ‘this or that’ and we can now categorically say we were absolutely right or pitifully wrong? Never would be a pretty accurate answer to that one.

Judging from the backlash Gartner is receiving in the press on this matter, it may have been more prudent to simply report what is bleedingly obvious to anybody that follows the industry – BlackBerry is in trouble - rather than offer three recommended courses of action to clients that use BlackBerry Enterprise Service servers and/or BlackBerry smartphones.

Did Gartner do the same for Nokia customers before the Microsoft buyout? Will their impending report dissuade potential buyers of BlackBerry that may well have brought customers the confidence they needed to stay?

Let’s hope future ‘analysis’ will be more responsible and balanced. It might be better to get that crystal ball out and tell us all where the next big disruptor is coming from or is that more difficult than wielding the hammer?

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