Business trends depend on the unpredictable consumer

If you're banking on 2013 being the year of anything, you've missed the boat. That is, unless you're predicting the unpredictability of the almighty consumer.

It's great that at this time of year every crusty old pundit and industry watcher comes out from under his rock, sporting his "winter body," ready to give us his analysis of the year to come. Humbug! Nonsense, I tell you, utter nonsense. Flipping the calendar from December 31 to January 1 means nothing, especially in the IT world. Sure, some companies use the calendar year as their fiscal year but not all of them. In fact, many large companies don't use anything close to the calendar year to assess their fiscal year. So, why all the hogwash that spills over us at this time of year about what's coming for the new year, you ask? Simple. It's something new to say.

The problem is that businesses are made up of people. People are consumers. Consumers are unpredictable. Therefore, business is unpredictable.

The assumption, though, is that a new year means new hope for business.

Surprise! It doesn't.

Many believe, falsely, that the coming year is going to be the Year of the <insert silly marketing fluff terminology that will be considered to be one of the most overused terms at the end of year here>. I don't believe it.

I don't believe that 2013 will be the year of:

  • Cloud adoption.
  • Linux desktop.
  • Apple.
  • Microsoft.
  • Tablets.
  • The post-PC era.
  • BYOD.

There are business trends, consumer trends, marketing trends and economic trends. Every aspect of business ebbs and flows but it has nothing to do with the calendar. And fortunately, it has nothing to do with what industry observers say. 

The most important of those is the consumer trends. People like you and me with dollars in our pockets to spend are the ones who determine what's successful and what fails not the analysts nor their silly predictions.

It reminds me of what "industry experts" say on TV about the economy with their predictions about gasoline, jobs and tech. If you don't know this already, let me give you an education: They don't know anymore than anyone else.

Typical trends in business, these days, go something like this:

  • Pre-release buzz.
  • Initial release surge.
  • Post-hype falloff.
  • Market resurgence.
  • Widespread adoption.
  • Commoditization.
  • Obsolescence.

 Though many of us on the "inside" have a better view of things, we still can't accurately predict what's going to happen.

For example, no one could have predicted that Apple would emerge from near bankruptcy and rise to the most valueable company in the world, no one could have predicted the extreme popularity of tablet computers and certainly no one could have predicted the mass adoption of virtualization and cloud revolution.

OK, maybe someone predicted them but it was probably a shot in the dark at best. The point is that industry experts are often neither industry nor experts. Unfortunately, people listen to them, invest money and other resources on their flimsy logic and empty words.

The takeaway from this is that no one can accurately predict what's going to happen in business and especially not in the Tech industry as a business sector. The best we, or they, can do is make assertions based on what we've seen before. The variable that makes it almost impossible to predict business trends is that consumers are fickle. Consumers often believe what the analysts say instead of doing some analysis for themselves.

Predictions are based on the assumption that past behavior predicts future behavior. For every example you can show that it does, I can give two more that show that it does not.

The only prediction that I can make with 100 percent accuracy is that analysts will continue to make predictions. Some consumers will purchase what's cool, what they're told is cool or what they can afford to purchase. And, there's absolutely no way to predict which one it will be.

2013 is the Year of the Unpredictable Consumer.