You say: "to me analytics implies an exploratory or descriptive phase of data analysis. It precedes any kind of modeling or predictive statistics."
I would respond: theoretically and ideally, yes -- however, when we choose which analytics tools to use (and for that matter, when analytics tools themselves are built) doesn't the logic we use to make those choices already begin to move us towards 'modeling and prediction'?
Put simply -- you wouldn't know what/how to measure unless you already had some kind of model or prediction in your head that you wanted to prove or disprove, no?
Or maybe I'm just splitting hairs here(?)