An article on Medium written at the end of 2015 tries to predict how we will be living in 2025. The problem with predicting so far out, and ten years is far out, is that we cannot possibly know how things we haven’t even thought about will dramatically impact our lives. It got me thinking what someone in January 2006 would have missed when predicting how we would be living in 2016.
The smartphone/tablet revolution
In 2006, the dominant global cellphone manufacturers were Nokia and Blackberry. The term ‘crackberry’ had been coined to describe how addictive the device was. The dominant personal computing device was a PC or a laptop running Windows XP.
In 2007, Apple introduced the first iPhone; in 2010, the iPad came out. They were both instant successes. In 2007, Microsoft launched Windows Vista and seriously damaged its reputation as a software provider.
No one in 2006 would have foreseen that Nokia and Blackberry would miss the uptake of smartphones, that Microsoft would fail in grabbing a significant share of the smartphone and tablet markets, and how these new technologies would revolutionize business and personal computing.
- The terms BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and ‘consumerization of IT’ arose from the preference of people for using their own, non-Microsoft, devices at work because the user interface and experience was better than that of the corporate Windows environment.
- We now talk about ‘mobile-first’ application development, and try to make sure our websites are ‘responsive’, so that people will find it easy to use apps on their smartphones and view websites.
- The mobile app became the preferred way to access products and services via the Internet, and subordinated the browser to a secondary role.
In 2006, people would discuss their views and experiences via a blog. The way you made contact electronically with people was by phone or email. You could send short messages to people using products like MSN Messenger. No one could have foreseen how two companies would change things.
Facebook had been in existence as a closed network for universities since 2004. In September 2006 it was extended to anyone with a registered email address, and by 2007 it had begun to change the way people kept in touch.
In July 2006, Twitter was launched, and while it took a while for people to catch on, it soon became the de facto source for breaking news and information sharing for a global community – restricted to messages of 140 characters or less. (I was an early user, my user number is 3011. You can find your Twitter number at http://www.idfromuser.com/).
- Although the concept of global communities was not new – the worldwide web had been around for over 10 years – Facebook and Twitter introduced the world to the phenomenon of social media. Soon, companies would start having to introduce guidelines for social media usage.
- Within a few years, businesses were looking for a Facebook- or Twitter-like experience for communication and collaboration for the enterprise.
- Facebook became the first tech company that could challenge Google as an advertising platform.
Both Amazon and Salesforce were well-known businesses in 2006, but few people could foresee how cloud computing would change the business and personal software space. It was in 2006 that Amazon launched AWS and Salesforce released Force.com, as platforms on which developers could create and maintain applications that ran in the cloud. The effect of these new platforms was seen in the scramble that started within a few years among the major enterprise software companies to build or acquire cloud applications.
- Terms such as PaaS (platform-as-a-service), IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) and SaaS (software-as-a-service) were created to describe the new types of applications that cloud software could provide.
- Who could have predicted that a new CEO at Microsoft (Satya Nadella) would change the company’s strategy to support competitive platforms because of the proliferation of cloud apps, and the negative impact the cloud had on Microsoft’s classic on-premise business.
Back in 2006 it was easy to see that Google was the new leading player in the tech space, but no one could have guessed how far ahead Apple would become in market capitalization. In the early 2000s, some large software companies had begun acquiring other companies – Microsoft with Great Plains in 2001, Oracle with Peoplesoft/JD Edwards in 2004 – but by 2010 the major enterprise software companies had gone on an acquisition binge. Despite their size and reach, these software behemoths were unable to anticipate changes in software requirements and so had to buy products in order to compete.
- In 2006, no one would have predicted how much of shareholders’ and customers’ money would been spent by enterprise software companies on acquisitions.
Looking further back
It occurred to me what people in previous decades might also have missed.
- 1996 – would not have been able to foresee the growth, dominance and influence of Google ten years later.
- 1986 – with companies like IBM and DEC as dominant players, would predictions have missed the impact of the then recently released Windows operating system, and the personal computer revolution.
If you are going to make predictions about how people will live or business will work, my recommendation is that you keep it to a reasonable time frame. Five years is probably a safe horizon to predict, but any longer and you are likely to be horribly wrong.