Sunday, October 16, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

This blog is about statistics.

On page 23 of a recent Wireless Week there is a chart of PDA shipments by operating system. The market share numbers look something like this:
Windows CE - 45.7%
Research In Motions - 23.2%
Palm OS - 18.8%
Symbian - 7.6%
Linux - .8%
Others - 3.9%

On page 24 there is a chart of operating system market share. It presents the following figures:
Symbian - 76%
Linux - 14%
Palm OS - 4.6%
Windows CE - 4.5%

What the heck? Did the market change that drastically in the time it took me to turn the page?

Actually, the subject of this blog has to do with this discrepancy. If you read the notes under the first chart, it tells you that devices like the Treo and BlackBerry 7100 are not considered PDAs, but smartphones, and do not count for the purposes of this study. Who reads the notes to a chart? I do, for this reason. The second chart did not have any notes, but it should have. There is no mention of the BlackBerry OS in the second chart. The reason is because the BlackBerry is manufactured by only one vendor (RIM) and therefore is considered a "proprietary" OS. Even though the BlackBerry would have had equal market share with Windows and Palm, it was left out.

So, what are the real numbers? There is only one real number I can speak to; the percentage of people who believe these numbers = 100% too many. Know what these studies say, and know why they are wrong. People should never buy a solution based on percentages. Where they see the Palm OS languishing in a distant third place, the reality is that the Treo, the number 2 selling wireless phone (see another chart on page 23) isn't being counted in this figure. Where Symbian looks to be dominating the pack, understand that that study includes almost every phone manufactured by Nokia because Symbian is the operating system for many of their phones. Understand that these numbers will do nothing more than taint a buyer's view of reality. Buyers should make sure that their choices and decisions are based on hard facts. Don't let these statistics get in the way of buying the right PDA, er. I mean smartphone, um I mean wireless PDA, or was that a … too heck with it.

Don't let the statistics get in the way, period.

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