Opinion by Steve Duplessie

Opinion: The market-share hoax

It would be helpful if someone started counting things that mattered

Opinion by Steve Duplessie

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Q: Steve, how much credence should a poor IT person put into market share data? -- B.T., Lexington, Ky.

A: How about none?

When is the last time that anyone relevant paid attention -- let alone based a buying decision -- on ridiculous market-share claims? IBM says it stole 1.2% of HP's storage business in Bolivia. Emulex/Q-Logic has 52.4% of the hotly contested Fibre Channel HBA in a server that sits next to a poster of Christie Brinkley. Cisco has garnered 56% of the director market on Tuesdays following a snowstorm; Brocade is vehemently denying this and counters with the fact that Cisco is counting food service ketchup/catsup bottles twice. I made up all those statistics, but don't be surprised if you see them in a press release soon.

Who cares about all this? What possible value is it to anyone with a real job to listen to this stuff? It seems to me that the only folks who care are vendor employees who, for some reason or another, continue to be measured in some way based on numbers derived from processes that are so fundamentally flawed that the only metric that matters is, "Do I get my bonus?" A peer review is one thing, but this has gone too far to be useful.

The only way any of this would be meaningful is if it were accurate and true -- and as far as I can see, most of it is neither. Vendors don't report any numbers anymore, and those who count things use "models" -- i.e., wild-ass guesses based on mood or sponsorship. No one sits and counts physical shipments. The only valid way to do any of this is if you had a statistically significant sample of buyers and users that you monitored over time. Until then, it's just sort of silly.

Vendors use the numbers in three ways:

1) If any number makes them look good, they announce it to the world as proof positive that they are the king of whatever it is. They don't care if they get credited with being responsible for someone winning a medal at a beer festival or for discovering a new planet, nor do they care if the source is really a three-legged dog in Mumbai with a parlor trick or two. If it's positive, it's true.

2) They have a Bolivian country manager that somehow gets paid if their number is positive -- regardless of whether the overall company results just tanked worse than box office sales for the movie Waterworld.

3) The ones who don't fare as well in the hyperscientific analysis cite inaccuracies and flawed methodologies to completely pooh-pooh negative results as absurdly one-sided and entirely useless.

The fact is that anyone can come up with any number anyone else wants. That's why it's stupid. No IT guy worth a dime would actually make a buying decision because "according to ABC, EMC has 98.5% of the worldwide NAS market" or "Cisco now has 87.4% of the world under its switching control." Any investor or hedge fund manager who puts any weight into these numbers will eventually be fired and forced to live the remainder of his live on a sweet Caribbean island counting his money. Tracking Microsoft's revenue by product in conjunction with total server shipments might yield some interesting results. Listening to numbers showing how Star Office is killing the Seattle folks won't.

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