I have a bone to pick with Gartner. I’ve had it since the year 2000, when they predicted, like they’re doing now, that a product I used was dead.
You see, I don’t know much about this company except that CEOs pay attention when Gartner speaks, and with that, predictions very easily become self-fulfilling prophecies.
In 1996, just like they’re doing now, Gartner predicted the death of Microsoft’s Visual Foxpro and since then until Redmond finally put it out of its misery, it was, for a lack of a better word, a miserable time for those of us who had the fortune of working with it. A fortune, because it was a very mature product; it was a reliable (something I’d be hard-pressed to say about most Microsoft products) and, most-importantly, lightning-fast database management system. It was a self-contained development environment, much like visual studio, but if a client needed a program that required a database back-end, you didn’t have to look elsewhere (i.e. SQL Server) and, in addition to being able to use its own database engine, it could connect to anything client-server out there. In addition, it was object-oriented and it really honored the term (coined back then) “Rapid Application Development.”
But Gartner said it was dead, and from that point on, clients started shunning anything Visual FoxPro, even though its abilities were proven well beyond any reasonable doubt (the logistics of transporting troops and equipment back and forth to Iraq during Desert Storm was handled by a system developed in Foxpro for the most part). Business owners were afraid they’d look bad when they told their friends that their companies use tools developed with VFP, and CEOs, of course, didn’t want to be the laughing stock of other CEOs.
But this blog entry is not about VFP (as much as I like it and still use it when I need to extract data from large databases QUICKLY or for writing rogue apps here and there, also quickly) as much as it is about the Gartner Group. By predicting an event and being as credible as they somehow managed to become, it’s impossible to really separate the prediction from the event. It’s probably a social example of the Observer Effect, in which observing a phenomenon has the effect of changing the phenomenon itself.
Now that it’s out in the open, I won’t even bother saying that Blackberry’s not dead. R.I.M. might as well change its name to R.I.P., for all it matters. As I write this, CIOs and Office Managers around the country are scrambling to replace all their blackberrys with other phones because Gartner said that the Blackberry is dead and their bosses and CEOs heed Gartner’s advice.
It would’ve been nicer if the folk at Gartner kept their predictions to themselves, but it’s impossible to ask for discretion from someone that’s in the “predictions business.” Now, if someone could just predict Gartner’s death…