The Numbers Game

Numbers, we got numbers! Headlines blare! Analysts analyze. And PR hacks go to town trying to spin the latest data into the latest trend. Yesterday was a day for numbers in the mobile tech bazaar and while they offered some interesting tidbits, they also offered a window into just how tricky it is to use conventional measurements to gauge a market that is moving at what seems to be the speed of light at times.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with measuring numbers. Every business has to do it to show growth or the lack thereof. It’s how the world works. But keep one thing in mind, by the time numbers are being reported they are yesterday’s news. And while yesterday does indeed tell us something about tomorrow (past is prologue), they are after all a snapshot taken at a point in time.


The big number news yesterday focused on Android sales overtaking iPhone sales, followed by a “what if” scenario that showed Apple outpacing many of the traditional leaders in portable computer sales, assuming you followed the tweak that the author suggested (adding iPads as Notebooks.)

The point of this post isn’t to criticize the numbers game, because everyone who sells anything has to play it and there is an entire industry that operates on publishing and spinning those numbers. But instead its to wonder how the current way of measuring these kind of numbers really can keep up with the blistering pace of mobile tech. Others have already pointed out that the Android vs iPhone numbers only include the first week of sales of the iPhone 4. Android phones are popping up all over and it is tough to keep track of what’s been announced vs. what’s been released and when those release dates are. To tell you the truth, it makes my head spin.

But when I take a breath, what I see is the underlying story of all of this number reporting. It’s not a sexy story because it has been one that has been unfolding for some time now, and it is far more exciting to write a “who beats who” story. Simply put, the hand held and mobile tech biz is growing by leaps and bounds, the competition is fierce, and for the moment, it shows no signs of abating. It also shows no sign of allowing the same kind of measurements we’ve been accustomed to for so long.