by Constantine von Hoffman
There is no stupider and unkillable feature in the media biz than the annual prediction. They are the modern version of examining a sheep’s liver, throwing coins on a board or any other form of divination – and every bit as accurate. Despite this, readers (myself included) love them – it lets you feel for the two minutes you’re reading them like you’re getting some inside scoop. Writers love them because they require no heavy lifting (i.e., reporting) and, unless you write about sports, you can predict whatever you want because no one ever remembers them a year later. Or maybe not. This year’s crop of tech prognostications from Robert X. Cringley, Popular Mechanics, and the usually redoubtable San Jose Mercury News seems dedicated to predicting what has already happened.
Let’s give Cringley his due: The man actually rates and publishes how accurate his predictions from the year before were. For the year past he says, “I hit only 73 percent, but would have been over 80 percent had Intel decided to come around and support AMD’s 64-bit instructions just a week earlier. Alas, readers have been looking back lately and say my average may be down — perhaps WAY down — for 2005.” Well, judging by this year’s efforts it’s a wonder he isn’t at 100 percent. He goes way out on a limb by predicting that, among other things, “Microsoft still sucks at security and users suffer for it,” “TiVO will be bought by another company,” “Apple WILL make some inroads against Microsoft” and “Google will continue to roll out new products and services as it builds out its infrastructure for a huge push in 2007.” In that same vein let me add that the Patriots will definitely NOT win the Super Bowl this year.
The San Jose Merc hedges its bets with the unusual-only-if-you-aren’t-paying attention prediction that 2006 will see more city-wide WiFi, cell phones that – get this – do everything from play music to surf the web, VOIP goes mainstream and video-on-demand starts showing up in new and unexpected places. Ummm, are you guys sure you haven’t just recycled last year’s prediction column, cuz I’m pretty sure all this has already happened.
Meanwhile, Popular Mechanics (motto: Touting Flying Cars For More Than Half A Century) tries to straddle the line between predicting and rewinding by offering us “15 Tech Concepts You’ll Need To Know In 2006.” (Did I remember to turn it on remains Number 1 on my list for this topic.) They vaguely suggest that this is the year that Electronic Medical Records somehow hits critical mass. Their reason? The White House has proposed spending $125M on it in next year’s budget. The fact that that’s roughly what the US is spending per day in Iraq tells you everything you need to know about where it stands in the Administration’s priorities and about how important it will wind up being. Give Popular Mechanics credit for making a lot of real predictions and not just passing along developments to current stories. Their only really painfully obvious pick for the coming year is that, get this, Ajax will get big. That’s get big, not just get big buzz.
But let’s be fair here. If I’m going to lambaste others for their lame-o views of the future than I should really put my money where my crystal ball is. OK, so here goes:
- Steve Jobs will get serious talk as the next Democratic pres nominee but will decline once he realizes that he can’t call it the iHouse.
- The Linux/Windows war will claim its first casualty when some CIO’s head explodes while having the various merits/demerits explained to him.
- EBay will make money.
- India starts outsourcing to Massachusetts.
- The Cubs win the World Series.*
*I have been making that prediction for decades, no point in stopping now.
You can leave a comment here or send your predictions for the coming year to firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to give them all the respect they deserve.