Why does the IT industry continue to listen to Gartner?

Why does the IT industry continue to listen to Gartner?

Summary: Another day, another provocative research report from Gartner, which has a long track record of spectacularly wrong predictions. I've collected some of their greatest hits. Er, misses.


Gartner is getting more than its fair share of attention today for a controversial series of blog posts on Windows 8 from research director Gunnar Berger, who argues that the Windows 8 experience will be “bad” on a non-touch-enabled device.

Update 24-July: Gartner's "Gunnar Berger" has removed the sentence describing Windows 8 as "bad" from his blog post, telling PC Pro UK that the statement was taken out of context by sites like The Register, which headlined its post "Windows 8 'bad' for desktop users - Gartner's one-word review." ZDNet's own Zack Whittaker headlined his post   Gartner: Windows 8 for desktop users is, in a word, 'bad'.

"My overall opinion on Windows 8 is actually really good," Berger told PC Pro UK. "That’s why I’m surprised at the amount of press – they love taking that one sentence and pulling it out of context. That’s driving me nuts. Overall, it’s actually a compelling product, combining a tablet OS and a desktop OS... I think that’s a very smart move."

I have one question. Why does anyone pay attention to Gartner, which has been trolling IT professionals for as long as I’ve been in the industry?

Just for grins, I went back and looked up some of Gartner’s more spectacularly confident and wrong-headed predictions. Here are some of their greatest hits. Er, I mean misses.

November 29, 2004 - Gartner: HP and IBM could abandon PC market

"Of the top 10 worldwide vendors, only Dell has consistently been profitable in the past several years. The PC divisions of HP and IBM are vulnerable to being spun off if their drag on margins and profitability are deemed too great by their parent companies," wrote Gartner in a research note.

Well, I suppose you can give Gartner half-credit for that one. After all, IBM did announce only eight days later (hey, did someone have some inside info?) that it would spin off its PC business to Lenovo. Except IBM kept an 18.9% equity stake in the new company, which means it got to keep the profits without the manufacturing headaches as it extended its reach into the enterprise.

Meanwhile, that HP prediction? Spectacularly wrong. Yes, seven years later, as part of its worst management crisis ever, HP tried to exit the PC industry. But it quickly reversed that decision and remains atop the worldwide leaderboard for PCs.

October 18, 2006 - Gartner: Apple should quit hardware business

Increasing component costs and pressure to cut its prices mean Apple's best bet for long-term success is to quit the hardware business and license the Mac to Dell, analyst firm Gartner claimed on Tuesday.

In a surprisingly ambitious report, called Apple Should License the Mac to Dell, Gartner says Apple should concentrate on what it does best — create software — and make use of Dell's production and distribution infrastructure.

"Apple should leverage its close relationship with Intel and team up with Intel's closest ally, Dell," the report states. "We recognise that this move would surprise and even shock many. We are aware that Steve Jobs cancelled previous Mac licences when he took over at Apple and that he guards the Apple brand zealously."


Gartner claims that with the right partners, distribution channels and a more affordable price, computers running the Mac OS could eventually account for 20 percent of the total PC market.

How’d that work out? Seriously, I know people have written a lot of stupid “advice for Apple” posts in the past decade, but this is the all-time topper.

As for market predictions, Gartner’s performance in 2009 really defines the term “moving the goal posts.” Follow along with me as we get in the Wayback Machine and set the dial for early 2009:

March 2, 2009 - Gartner Says PC Industry Will Suffer Sharpest Unit Decline in History in 2009

The PC industry will experience its sharpest unit decline in history, with PC shipments totaling 257 million units in 2009, an 11.9 percent decline from 2008, according to Gartner, Inc. Previously, PC units experienced their worst decline in 2001 when unit shipments contracted 3.2 percent.

Well, they are professional analysts, and they know their stuff. So, surely … wait, what’s this at the end of the year?

November 23, 2009 – Gartner Says Worldwide PC Shipments to Grow 2.8 Percent in 2009, but PC Revenue to Decline 11 Percent

Accelerating mobile PC shipments will drive the worldwide PC market to grow again this year, according to Gartner's preliminary fourth-quarter forecast. The new forecast predicts worldwide PC shipments will total 298.9 million units in 2009, a 2.8 percent increase from 2008.

OK, that was a narrow recovery. Completely unexpected. But we’re confident that these new numbers … I’m sorry, you say things changed again just a few weeks later?

January 13, 2010 - Gartner Says Worldwide PC Shipments in Fourth Quarter of 2009 Posted Strongest Growth Rate in Seven Years

Worldwide PC shipments surpassed 90 million units in the fourth quarter of 2009, a 22.1 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2008, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. It was the strongest year over year growth rate the worldwide PC market has experienced in the last seven years.


For the year, worldwide PC shipments totaled 306 million units (see Table 4), a 5.2 percent increase from 2008. PC shipment growth was driven by the consumer mobile PC market with acceleration of average selling prices (ASPs).

To recap: In early 2009, Gartner projects “sharpest unit decline in history.” At the end of the year, it reports “strongest growth rate in seven years.”

And you wonder why I put “Gartner predicts” right up there with “a report from DigiTimes” on my list of phrases that cause me to stop reading further.

You should too.

Update: How could I have forgotten this one, from August 25, 2006?

Vista will be the last version of Windows that exists in its current, monolithic form, according to Gartner.

Instead, the research firm predicts, Microsoft will be forced to migrate Windows to a modular architecture tied together through hardware-supported virtualisation. "The current, integrated architecture of Microsoft Windows is unsustainable - for enterprises and for Microsoft," wrote Gartner analysts Brian Gammage, Michael Silver and David Mitchell Smith. 

Yes, the last of its kind. Except for those 600 million copies of Windows 7.

Update 2: OK, just one more, from my own archives, May 2006: Gartner says Vista to ship in 2007.

Topics: PCs, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • Even I don't trust Gartner

    Windows 8 experience will be worser than Windows Me and Vista.
    • I agree

      • MLHACK ........ I AGREE


        rkobzarev you do know their is no spell check provided by Zdnet....don't you?

        No Me and Vista wernt quite that bad......THEY WERE WORSER and I can attest to that
        Over and Out
    • I am not sure worser is a word.

      Granted Me and Vista were quite bad. Let's give 8 a chance at least. We are all so quickly to jump a band wagon of dismissal. XP and 7 did OK, so why the hate?
      • Vista wasn't that bad

        It received bad press, but if you had a power beast PC and all the right devices with the right drivers, it worked fine :-)

        Of course Vista was too big for most PCs of the time, but by the time SP1 came out it was just fine. Sure Windows 7 is better than Vista, but Vista ain't half as bad as Windows ME was...
        • Yes it was.

          Yeah, and then you reload the "beast computer" with Windows 7 and it boots and runs twice as fast... Hmmm. IMO, Vista pre-service pack was just as bad as ME if not worse. The problem is, I STILL come across computers without SP1 on Vista. Service Packs should be forced at this point.
          Gregg Barbato
          • Gartner predicts

            that Windows 8 experience will be worser than anything ever before.

            So we're safe then. I'll pre-order my upgrade
          • HugoM ..........I agree with Gartner also

            Windows 8 experience will be worser than anything ever before.

            Those darn FLASHING tiles in Metro are a total pain in the tush.............
            Over and Out
          • @greg barbato

            That's simply not true. 7 is a better OS than Vista, but it wasn't significantly faster than a fully patched Vista box when 7 came out. Vista was horribly slow when it was released, mostly because AMI (now AMD), Nvidia, Creative and various other dropped the ball on drivers. That didn't happen with 7. I haven't used 8, but all the benchmarking I've seen shows it's faster than 8.

            The main issue with 8 is people don't like the new interface (but I've seen some screen shots that show a desktop that looks virtually identical to 7).
          • It depends

            On my Pentium D800 Vista SP 1 flat out beat Windows 7 RTM, especially when directx games were concerned. In my view the number of changes Microsoft put into Windows 7 are minimal. vista -> 7 = minor upgrade, 7 -> 8 = major upgrade.

            Of course I don't need Gartner to tell me Win8 isn't suitable for desktop use, on my main desktop, my work laptop and my home laptop, Windows 8 is the main and only os, and I am certainly more productive than with Windows 7. The new interface offers speed, felxibility and choice.
          • The trouble with Vista

            Was mostly lack of driver support, we have a basic Vista PC running our Retail software server to 3 up to 4 other PC's running in raid Mirror. Two years now with no issues and it runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
          • Well

            I've recently upgraded my father's PC from Vista (still had the original install from Toshiba, with all the updates) to Windows 8 and I really don't see that it runs twice as fast. On the other hand it also doesn't boot twice as fast, it's actually much faster than that.
        • Vista Was Cool If You Kept Fresh

          I did 2 high-end home builts. I only went with recently released components. Vista has been flawless.

          I have also suffered will Vista on older hardware. Ugh.
        • A New OS ...

          ...is always, ALWAYS going to be better on new hardware it's designed to run on than it is older legacy hardware. Often, the truly suitable hardware lags at best and might not even be available the day the OS is released. When the evaluation is made from inappropriate hardware, then yeah, most are going to look sucky.
      • Worser hasn't been a word in English since the 17th century.

        The confusion is because we have 'good, better, best' and 'bad, worse, worst'. So worse is the opposite of better, not worser.
        • TheWerewolf.....But Worser has more oomph to it and their for

          is exceptable on Zdnet............ :-)................ and remember Loverock Davidson always uses it so in that case it must be correct....just ask him
          Over and Out
        • But…

          Who said worse was the opposite of worser?
          Fred Fredrickson
    • been there, whined about that.

      Yep, just like the ribbon interface will kill off adoption of Office 2007...
      • Ribbon? Ribbin'?

        Actually, the "ribbon" 'face has been immensely unpopular with many upgrading users. Which may be why there are so many freeware apps that restore the "traditional" 'face to these programs.

        Let's face it, for the lion's share of Office users (who don't require lots of its features), upgrading is a waste of $$. But all the MS hype (plus a lot of FUD) snooker a lot of people into dropping big bucks for "newer" versions they don't need.
        • Agreed about upgrading

          but I disagree about the UI. The old UI was a PITA to find anything. For this non-power user, the ribbon is easier to use.