OK, we know: Hindsight is 20/20 and mocking past predictions is cheap and easy. If we think we’re so smart why don’t we make some predictions of our own?
Let’s indulge in some schadenfreude and review some of the goofier things people predicted for tech in 2008.
Then, below that, we’ll get to some of the better calls — some of them made by the very same people.
- Linux finally wins! From PC World:
“As Vista continues to limp toward wider adoption, Linux will make major inroads into the enterprise, as well as in government IT. At the same time, the leaner OS will become a more attractive option for home users and in consumer electronics, spurred by the Open Handset Alliance and the advent of Google’s Android mobile platform, which will be built on the Linux kernel.”
What actually happened: Windows, with market share just below 90%, and Mac OS X, with market share around 9.1% still utterly dominate.
- All five of CNET show Top Five’s five predictions for 2008 — that there will be a bandwidth crisis, that the PC will become passé, that Google will dominate through the 700 mhz spectrum, Android or $1,000 stock price, that Apple will opens no new lines business, and that Broadcast TV will die — proved false.
What actually happened: Bandwidth is fine. You’re reading this on a PC. Android works on one phone. Google’s share price is under $300 and your mum’s never heard of Hulu, but still watches all seven CSI shows on CBS.
- The Semantic Web will become more than just another way to sell conference tickets! From ReadWriteWeb:
“Semantic Apps will become popular in 2008, due to their ability to get better content results and make better data connections. Think search engines like Hakia and Powerset, wikipedia-like efforts like Twine and Freebase, and apps that use semantic technologies under the hood (such as AdaptiveBlue and Snap).”
What actually happened: No one can afford conference tickets just to hear about silly things like the Semantic Web anymore.
- The Internet defeats Chinese censorship. From InformationWeek:
“Countries will have to behave better and the fake Internet will collapse. This means that Web censorship will begin to go away. Real Net access is on the path to becoming a basic human right.”
What actually happened: Following a brief respite during the Olympics, China stepped up censorship.
- AOL acts fast. From Business Week:
“Jeff Bewkes moves very quickly to remake Time Warner. In addition to previously surmised moves (Time Warner Cable (TWC) spin-off, the sale of AOL’s (TWX) access business), news will surface that AOL is exploring a broad partnership and/or deal with either Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), or Yahoo! (YHOO)—and is engaging in discussions with the others despite the inherent complication that Google already owns 5% of AOL at a $20 billion valuation. And magazine unit Time Inc. slims down by selling its IPC stable of British magazines.”
What actually happened: Nothing.
- Yahoo finds a new strategy. From John Battelle:
“Yahoo, meanwhile, will spend most of 2008 trying to figure out what to do with what it bought in 2007, and attempting to articulate a strategy that is anything but “we have 500 million users, so we must be important.” By mid year, it will have succeeded, in part due to a clarification of its approach syndicated advertising (ie, how it will beat Google by delivering better than AdSense can to key partners). Yahoo will finally admit to itself that in the battle between Microsoft and Google, it is an increasingly minority player, and will need to bulk up to compete. By year’s end, Yahoo will have combined in a major way with another third party, and it won’t be either of the two aforementioned companies.”
What actually happened: Yahoo went through two layoffs, a failed merger with Microsoft and a failed search deal with Google and demoted its CEO and cofounder Jerry Yang back to Chief Yahoo.
- People start to hate the Wii. From TheStreet.com:
“The mainstream media will begin to understand that the Nintendo Wii is far from the greatest thing to happen to the video-game industry, and we will see some objective articles discussing some issues I’ve harped on, particularly low game quality and weak sales of third-party titles. CNBC will also invite me on to discuss these issues.”
What actually happened: The Wii dominated holiday console sales, again.
The best predictions:
- The shine comes off Google. From ReadWriteTalk:
“Google will really start looking vulnerable in 2008. While the ‘one trick pony’ comment by Steve Ballmer drew sarcastic responses, this will begin to look prophetic. While they’ll maintain market share in the search industry, the lack of traction in any other of their other initiatives will start to cause frustration. Plus, they will increasingly be perceived as the ‘evil’ company in many of these new initiatives.”
- PC World calls the Presidential winner:
“The new president might not directly affect IT, though the president’s views regarding the use of technology have certainly had an effect in recent years. On that note, we’ll make our boldest prediction for 2008: President Obama.”
- Tech spending will slow as credit tightens. From PC Mag:
“Various market researchers have already lowered their 2008 forecasts for tech spending in the U.S. and are suggesting that any serious growth in tech will have to come from international markets. Up to now, U.S. consumer spending on tech products has proved resilient, and demand for consumer tech products will stay strong through the end of this year. That is even with economic concerns related to the mortgage crisis. But I am hearing that there is another potential crisis on the horizon related to credit-card lending.
“Banks and financial institutions have been giving out credit cards as if they were candy, and there could be a trickle-down effect from this overlending that could impact personal credit. If personal credit gets tighter, people could have trouble buying PCs, HDTVs, and so forth—items typically purchased via credit card. I am not an economist and don’t even pretend to understand credit crunches, but I do know that if personal credit gets tight, consumer spending on noncritical tech-related products could be affected.”
- Daily newspapers — like the Detroit Free Press — will redefine “daily.” From BusinessWeek:
“Daily newspapers begin to redefine the word “daily.” At least one U.S. newspaper in a top-100 market will stop taking “daily” literally and drop its (historically thin) Saturday print edition. Other papers in smaller markets also do so, in some cases going further by dropping print publication on another day as well.”
- Web 2.0 sees a shakeout. From John Battelle:
As for the Web 2 world, we’ll see a ton of venture funded companies go by the wayside. This is healthy and normal. It’s been a few years since the funding wallets opened, and it’s quite normal for companies that couldn’t get lift off by year two or three to close their doors. We’ll also see an uptick in acquisitions, as the boards of companies that that thought they were worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars decide to settle for decent returns. This will be particularly true for media and advertising related businesses, who will find home at large media companies that are traditionally not eager to pay significant premiums.
- We find we’re in a massive recession. From ABC News:
“Early last year, I predicted it for late 2007. And I think we’ll look back this year and see that, at least in high technology, it did indeed arrive about last September, if not even earlier. This downturn in tech is hardly unexpected: It typically comes every four years or so, and though unwelcome, usually has the beneficial effect of killing off the old and feeble companies as well as the uncompetitive new start-ups. This frees talent and money to go elsewhere usually into the creation of the next generation of hot new companies.
I’ve been smelling recession in the air here in the Valley for months now. People are tired, the money is getting distorted, and most of all, a lot of people who shouldn’t have jobs are being snatched up by companies desperate for warm bodies.
I also think that the reality of this recession has been largely masked by a handful of great companies HP, a resurgent Dell, Google, Microsoft and most of all, Apple — swimming against the trend and posting numbers that not only makes the Valley look healthier than it is, but also buoys up the entire U.S. stock market. As we’ll see in a moment, that won’t last much longer.
I once predicted that this recession would be deep, but short. Now I’m of a different mind: Because it has taken longer to unfold, I also think it will take longer to end. On the other hand, I also think that the larger U.S. recession, which despite recent GDP numbers, also seems under way, may not be as bad as I first thought, as the slow slide downward will help reduce the damage of the mortgage mess. So, look for a shallower recession in both the U.S. economy and in high tech, but also expect it to last into late 2009, with tech coming out of it first at midyear.”
Photo: lux & pixel