#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 6°C Thursday 25 February 2021

How some tech companies use numbers to make eye-popping claims

We’re not saying there isn’t some basic truth in them but…

You sell a copy of your software program every second? You don't say!
You sell a copy of your software program every second? You don't say!
Image: shocked baby image via Shutterstock

LIES, LIES AND damned statistics. There isn’t anything incorrect per se with the following claims made by well-known tech companies – but it’s worth examining how they came to their eye-popping numbers…

Microsoft: The ‘New Office’ has sold one copy every second.

Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, told a gathering of some 16,ooo Microsoft partners that 1 billion people were using Office around the world.

A big part of that, he said, was the positive reception to Office 2010.

How positive? DelBene said someone in the world buys a copy of Office 2010 every second.

Now, we’re not saying this isn’t true. But this does create the impression of a feeding frenzy of interest in Office 2010, with people camped out around Microsoft stores clamoring for a chance to get their hands on it.

The reality is, a great deal of Microsoft’s Office sales are to enterprises that buy it as part of “volume licensing” contracts. With these, enterprises pay a lump sum up front and get everything Microsoft releases over the term of the contract.

HP: Our website gets 9 billion hits per month.

HP CEO Meg Whitman dropped a stunning stat into her keynote speech in early June at Discover, the company’s customer conference.

HP.com is getting 300 million hits per day, Whitman said.

That’s 9 billion hits per month.

That’s a truly mind boggling number. But on closer inspection, it’s not as huge a figure as it sounds.

Thing is, no one uses hits anymore when talking about web traffic. That’s because “hits” is an outdated metric that includes all the images and other files served up in a webpage.

A single webpage can generate hundreds of hits.

So, we’re not taking anything away from HP—it’s still getting a ton of traffic to its website. But pageviews and unique visitors are a much more relevant way to measure web traffic.

HP.com serves around 11 million people per month, according to analytics firm Quantcast.

Oracle claims exadata database machine is 20 times faster than IBM systems.

Last July, Oracle got some heat from the US National Advertising Division after running ads that suggested its Exadata database hardware was 20 times faster than IBM’s power system servers.

IBM complained to the NAD that Oracle was implying that all of its Exadata products were faster than all its Power systems.

IBM said Oracle didn’t provide evidence for its claims, other that saying in an ad that a “Giant European Retailer” switched from IBM to Oracle and found it 20 times faster.

The NDA sided with IBM, and Oracle stopped running the ad, though it did appeal.

Google says 1.5 million Android devices are being activated every day.

Google says it’s activating 1.5 million Android devices every day, and has activated more than 900 million Android devices worldwide to date.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt predicted in April that he expects that figure to grow to 2 billion in the next couple of years.

Google’s rivals have long suggested it is playing games by lumping Android upgrades into its tally, but Google has denied this. But it could be more clear about how it tabulates these figures.

John Kirk of Techpinions argues that the only number that really matters is the number of Android devices accessing Google Play store for apps, videos, and other content, which Google doesn’t share.

“When it comes to telling you how many activations they have, Google uses devices that check in to their servers. But when Google wants to tell you which versions of their operating system are in use, they only count user visit’s to the Google Play store,” Kirk said in an April blog post.

SAP CEP: We could have “the fastest-growing software product in the history of the world.”

In January, SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott was really pumped up over sales of HANA, the company’s in-memory database software, which can store and analyse data at the same time.

“We have 1,000 customers on it now, so it’s growing really fast. The last update we gave, we indicated that we think it could be a half-billion US dollar business, which would make it the fastest growing software product in the history of the world,” McDermott said in an interview with AllThingsD’s Arik Hesseldahl.

McDermott didn’t offer any details beyond that. HANA is selling quickly, but the Earth has been around for some 4.6 billion years, and there have been a lot of fast-selling enterprise software products during that time, so this one might be a stretch.

T-Mobile’s “uncarrier” claims don’t stand up under scrutiny.

In an enlightening (and profanity filled) speech in March at an event in New York City, T-Mobile CEO John Legere railed against carriers’ penchant for locking in US customers with long-term contracts.

T-Mobile’s “Simple Choice” contract-free mobile plans, he said, were going to be a breath of fresh air for long suffering wireless customers.

T-Mobile promised “no restrictions” and its ads suggested customers wouldn’t be locked into the two-year contracts that other carriers require.

However, the Washington Attorney General’s Office called out T-Mobile for misleading customers in the ads. It claimed T-Mobile didn’t make it clear that customers would still have to keep service for 24 months, or pay full price for their phone, if they decided to leave. In fact, we obtained a copy of T-Mobile’s contract right here.

T-Mobile ended up clarifying its ads.

Microsoft: We’re selling 7 copies of Windows 7 every second.

In July 2010, when Microsoft announced that Windows 7 sales had passed the 175 million mark in terms of licenses sold, the company dropped in this stat:

“This continues our record breaking pace of more than 7 copies sold per second,” Windows blog manager Brandon LeBlanc said in a blog post announcing the news.

Windows 7 did sell like hotcakes because so many organisations had given Windows Vista a miss. Still, the “more than 7 copies sold” claim made it seem like people were rushing out to their nearest Microsoft store to buy Windows 7, when that wasn’t really happening.

As is the case with Office, most enterprises get Windows as part of big volume licensing deals, which gives them all the software Microsoft releases over a period of time.

So, while they may have been looking forward to getting it, these customers weren’t banging on Microsoft’s doors and demanding Windows 7.

Cisco CEO John Chambers says “the Internet of things” will generate $14 trillion in profit in the next decade.

Cisco CEO John Chambers made a prediction in May that was flat-out staggering:

“The Internet of Things, I think will be the biggest leverage point for IT in the next 10 years, $14 trillion in profits from that one concept alone,” Chamber said at AllThingsD’s D11 Conference.

The Internet of Things means putting web-connected sensors into cars, appliances, smart meters, and other everday objects.

Chambers used Cisco’s own research to make this claim. We’re not saying he’s wrong, but $14 trillion is an oddly precise figure. It’s also a number that most ordinary humans have trouble processing.

And, if it ends up only being $13 trillion, it’s not like people are going to come back to Chambers and say “Aha, see? We told you it wasn’t going to be that big!”

Apple describes its maps app as “the most powerful mapping service ever”.

Apple dumped Google Maps last year and replaced it with its own maps app when it debuted iOS 6, the current operating system for iPhones and iPads.

For a time, Apple was billing its maps on its website as the ”most powerful mapping service ever.”

There wasn’t any accompanying data for this claim, and it quickly became apparent to iOS users that it wasn’t accurate.

Apple deleted the description after it became clear that its maps app was a disaster. CEO Tim Cook apologised for the whole thing, and iOS chief Scott Forstall was shown the door, reportedly for refusing to acknowledge his role in the fiasco.

France wants to tax smartphones and tablets to fund the arts>

7 deadly ways to pimp your phone>

Oh dear: Apple Maps has made some pretty big mistakes in its Ireland maps>

Published with permission from:

Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

Read next: