Could an App Build Market-Forecast Spreadsheets Worth Thousands of Dollars Each?

Of course, an app could build technology market forecasts worth thousands of dollars each. Microsoft Excel does it now but only with brain-numbing, tedious, repetitive effort by the forecaster. Could there be a better way?

Since the early 1990’s, my dream has been to build a specialized market-forecasting app with the following features:

  1. The app would have knowledge of market forecasting, such as, diffusion models as well as the mathematical relationships of quantities like installed base, replacement purchases and churn.
  2. The app would have knowledge of technology, such as, Moore’s Law, the Learning Curve and multi-generation products and services;
  3. The app would provide foundational data needed for most forecasts, e.g., for every country of the world: population, number of households and technology-in-use profile.
  4. The app would provide data about historical products and services that would serve as analogies for forecasting new products.
  5. The app would provide assistance to a forecaster in each forecasting step, e.g., choosing a geographical scope and regional structure, choosing a target market, potential market, penetration curves, pricing, and so on.
  6. The output of the app would be an Excel file that could be further tailored by the forecaster. The Excel file would be worthy of publication complete with table of contents, summaries and charts. The spreadsheet would include appropriate formulae for the forecasted quantities as well as a fact table for pivot tables and charts.

An app that would do all that would truly be a Forecast Joy app.

I have built parts of the Forecast Joy app again and again as a background activity to my consulting business, which until recently has occupied the vast majority of my time. About 1994, soon after Microsoft embedded Visual Basic in Excel, I started working on feature 1 above. I wrote a business plan for a product with features much like the list above. In the late 1990’s I implemented features 1,2 4 and 6 as an Excel Add-in. Unfortunately, it was a nightmare for users to install. I beta tested a version called “Bass Modeler” with Frank Bass’s students. The forecasting features were good, but the support of an Excel add-in on unpredictable versions of Excel was beyond me. I gave up on the add-in approach. About 2005, again I implemented features 1,2, 4 and 6 on the website bassbasement.org. I sacked that because the website lacked the interactivity that I had been able to accomplish with Excel. Because of support issues, I removed the forecasting features from bassbasement.org, which does still has some good information about the Bass Model.

But, I am stubborn. I didn’t give up. In 2014, I built this blog using Microsoft Silverlight as the delivery vehicle for the forecasting app. Although it runs from this website, the app, after downloading, is actually running on the user’s PC on top of the Silverlight add-in to Internet Explorer. Thus, unlike bassbasement.org, it does have reasonable interactivity. But soon bad news made clear to be that this direction had no long-term future because Windows 10’s Edge Browser does not support add-ins including Silverlight. Of course, Internet Explorer will continue to be offered, but with diminishing visibility. This took the wind out of my sails.

wp_ss_20160209_0001But, I am stubborn. I didn’t give up. When I retired from client work in late 2015, I decided it was time to stop dabbling with app development and get serious since, without client interruptions, I had time. I had been toying with phone app development for about five years and had done some cute Windows phone apps including a Bass Model calculator, which I would have released had there been enough Windows phones in the world to make it interesting. A couple of years ago, I explored using Xamarin to implement Bass Model Calculator as a app that would run on iPhones and Android phones and tablets as well as Windows phones. I became discouraged because, although phones are a fascinating app opportunity, Forecast Joy really needed at bigger screen. Further, I very much prefer writing programs in C# with the vast resources of .Net technologies so it was hard to get excited about phones or even tablets running iOS or Android.

But, I am stubborn. I didn’t give up. Windows 10 made my direction clear: I set out to build the Forecast Joy app as a Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app that would run on Windows 10 phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Since I think most Forecast Joy users will be on larger screens, this is perfect. To that end, since last September, I have been humongously focused learning Windows 10 UWP app development. That has included completing hundreds of hours of video classes and doing endless programming exercises to systematically become a seriously competent Windows 10 developer. I have a way to go, but for a semi-retired old lady, it beats knitting. I have an ugly version of Bass Model calculator running as well as the most ambitious to date version of the full blown Forecast Joy app. I haven’t had this much fun since … I don’t remember when.

Late last year, I considered getting into the market forecasting business still yet again; that is, selling forecasts and their associated market analyses. I am especially interested in forecasting the possibly endless number of products that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT). To that end, I bought the domain name iotresearch.com, which would be the business identity publishing market research about IoT. While working on IoT forecast models, predictably, I became more interested in the forecasting process and tools than I was in actually building a specific forecast model. Although I may return to that path sometime in the future, for now, my forecast joy lies in building the Forecast Joy app.

 

 

 

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