Predicting the future is no easy task. Why would a sane person attempt such a foolhardy task? Bill Gates did it 10 years ago with “The Road Ahead.”
How did he do? Can you say, “Popular Mechanics 1962?” Do you remember the family helicopter? How about nuclear power for the home?
Gates, silver spoon and all, prefaced his own book with plenty of the necessary qualifying statements to the folly of predictions.
Then he went and predicted the future anyway. Here we are 10 years or so later. How did Gates fare as a visionary? It’s a mixed bag.
Geoff Richards, writing for Bit-Tech, compares the present with Gates’ version of the present and recent past and recent future (it’s hard to pin down a futurist).
Storage. Hard drives are getting faster and hold more. On a per gigabyte basis, cheaper, too. Gates was excited over the low cost of a 1.2GB drive back in 1995, but missed the even lower cost per gig today.
Fortunately, I didn’t spend $63,000 on a Maxtor Diamondmax.
Gates invisioned holographic storage to be the thing of the future. It still is, Star Trek notwithstanding.
Music is today’s big deal, though video is getting hotter very fast. Apple struck gold with the iPod and iTunes Music Store while Microsoft was embroiled in security fixes for their mainstay applications.
Gates never talked about music in “The Road Ahead.” Instead, his focus was on TV and movies.
No offense is intended, but I think I could have figured that one out. Why it never showed up on Star Trek is beyond me.
Gates did a good job of predicting the DVR/PVR now showing up in homes nationwide as cable TV provides more services for more money. His own Windows Media software hasn’t taken off.
Maybe it has something to do with the 40-odd buttons on the remote and the requirement to have an engineering degree to set it up.
What do you carry in your wallet or purse? Keys, credit cards, and the like? Your iPod? A cell phone? Uh huh. Gates was thinking ahead.
We’re not there. Yet. But Blackberry, Moto, and other devices are moving in that direction.
Richards points out Gates’ and Microsoft’s efforts on handwriting recognition. Apple’s Newton and InkWell notwithstanding, that hasn’t gone very far, either.
We’ve had better success with voice recognition on cell phones and voice mail systems.
Then there’s the dreaded “DRM.” Digital Rights Management. Gates predicted such a future. Fortunately, his vision was cloudy.
Pay per song listened to? I hope not. Microsoft wants Microsoft to be the center of the entertainment module in the living room and hasn’t had much success controlling the entertainment content providers.
Herding cats seems to be something Jobs can do.
Back in 1995, Gates didn’t really predict spam (the email you don’t read), though he offered speculation on direct marketing (spam) changes in the future.
This is a quote from the book that I love.
Life should be so easy.
Gates’ “The Road Ahead” was a fun read back then, and a fun look backwards (and forwards) today. Interesting, too, is the use of first person throughout the book.
It’s filled with “I think this…” and “I feel that…” even though the book was really authored by Bill Gates, Microsoft’s then CTO Nathan Myhrvold, and Peter Rinearson (probably there for sentence structure).
To be remembered is the fact that “The Road Ahead” came before the Information Super Highway, which began in late 1994 and early 1995 for most of the public.