Rob Enderle: Putting the ‘Anal’ in ‘Analyst’

Speaking of jackasses, how about technology industry “analyst” Rob Enderle? Enderle is both:

  • Frequently quoted in major mainstream media
  • Nearly always completely wrong (at least regarding Apple)

One would hope these two facts would be mutually exclusive — that a self-professed industry expert whose pronouncements about Apple were nearly always wrong would eventually stop being asked for his opinion about the company and its products. But alas, no.

Enderle for years has been banging the drum that Apple is doomed unless it switches gears and starts making Wintel-compatible PCs and competing with Dell on “style”. E.g., Enderle’s prediction from a year ago: “Apple’s continued technical disadvantage against Intel is expected to force them to adopt x86 technology by the end of 2003.” Or, more specifically, one year ago, when Enderle predicted that Apple was on the verge of announcing an iPod that played video.

So, now, Enderle is hopped up on Think Secret’s report of lower-cost, lower-capacity iPods being introduced at the upcoming Macworld Expo. Note, importantly, that if the rumor pans out, the scoop is Think Secret’s, not Enderle’s. Reuters reporter Duncan Martell simply called Enderle for a quote. See, an amateur writer would just read the Think Secret article and regurgitate it; whereas your professional capital-J Journalist wire service reporter reads the article, regurgitates it, and then calls an “industry expert” professional quotester like Enderle for comment.

Unlike last year’s video iPod rumor, this one rings true and stands up to a bit of logical scrutiny. To date, Apple has concentrated on expanding the iPod at the high end, via larger-capacity hard disks and slimmer casing. But with the high end now at 40 GB, one could argue there isn’t much room left — 40 GB is more than enough space for all but the very largest music libraries. Nor is processor performance an issue. Ergo, it makes sense that perhaps Apple has been expending engineering effort not on making better iPods at the same price, but rather on making iPods with the same capabilities but at lower prices.

And so here is the chance for Enderle to get one right, to get on the record with a prediction that might actually pan out. And but he blows it, piping in with his own prediction: “Odds are it’s a flash-memory-based player”.

This is pure Enderle speculation — there’s no mention of flash memory in Think Secret’s report. While it’s possible that Enderle knows something about wholesale data storage prices that I don’t, to the best of my knowledge, flash memory costs more, a lot more, than small-footprint hard disks with the same capacity. If the purpose of the rumored iPod expansion is to lower the price, why in the world would Apple switch to a higher-priced storage medium?

(Sidenote: if it’s true that Apple is also planning new, smaller-footprint “mini” iPods, it seems likely to me that they’re different than the new cheaper iPods. I.e., perhaps Apple is planning new, cheaper iPods; and perhaps they’re planning new, smaller iPods; but it strikes me as unlikely that they’re making a new iPod that is both smaller and cheaper.)

My point, though, isn’t the iPod rumor-mongering. What I find fascinating is to see a Reuters reporter diluting the accuracy of his article by fishing for quotes from a “respected” industry analyst. Martell quotes Enderle to make his reporting sound credible — at what is almost certainly the expense of genuine accuracy. If Martell had any clue whatsoever, Enderle’s “it’s flash-memory-based player” assertion would have begged at least one simple follow-up question: If the new iPods are cheaper, why would Apple switch to a more expensive storage medium?

Further Reading

Will Parker does a bang-up job ripping Enderle’s comments to shreds.

Dave Winer on Enderle, from February 2002:

Enderle’s presence is a warning sign. I see a quote from him I get the message. The reporter is out of ideas and has decided to cut corners.

And from a follow-up, a few days later, Winer wrote:

Enderle and his ilk are old fashioned vestiges of a system that was really shitty, and got the ink-stained crowd in a deep hole. If you want to find a way out, start digging for real stories, real news, and for that you can’t go to the quote mills.