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2013 predictions in technology - really predictions or just extrapolations?

by Bruno Van de Casteele

January 5, 2014

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Donate I want to join the skeptical meme to evaluate past predictions to see if they came through. Not astrological or any other psychic babble, but like last year I'm going to analyse the predictions in IT and technology made by Strategic News Services. Or, more precisely, what the guru and owner Mark Anderson collected from discussions with people in the field. Because that is what he really is doing in my opinion. He talks to a lot of people in leadership positions, and extrapolates from it. Some people assign a lot of value to his "predictions", and are willing to pay top money to subscribe to his weekly bulletins, but in reality it is just based on what people think their company (or their competitors) will do.

For good measure, Anderson is so nice as to post his past predictions online for free, so at least he's open about it. I'll have some short predictions for this year at the end of this post. In the mean time, please find his "predictions" for 2013. I will score on two items: precise predictions (mentioning "Apple" will get you a better score than "an IT company", but using weasel words will cost points) and what actually happened.

I. "CarryAlongs" Dominate Global Computer Markets

Precise: 20%, mentioning pads and slates is very very vague as the line between small laptops and tablets is very blurry (Surface RT for instance). It wasn't hard either to predict this would happen.
Actual: 100%, but I'm being generous because that's almost what everyone saw coming.

II. Intel: Long Live the King, the King is Dead

Precise: 100%, specific company and mentioning the possibility of a new CEO to help the company survive the mobile market (see above).
Actual: 100%! Although some exciting new processor architecture (Haswell) was announced, it wasn't all that easy for shareholders, and there was indeed a new CEO. Impressive...

III. Net TV Dominates (in the US)

Precise: 50%, a bit too vague mention of "net-connected TV" (almost any TV bought after 2011 has that possibility). Business Insider reports that there has been a net loss of cable and other subscribers since September 2011, so really not that impressive as a prediction.
Actual: 50%, as indeed the Business Insider article reports it was a bad year. However, the focus of the prediction was more on technology (TV) and variety in scheduling and cheaper content. In reality, it is far more complex, as people seem to be ditching their TV's, too...

IV. The LTE vs. Fiber Battle Creates Regional Revolutions in Broadband

Precise: 60%, rather precise prediction but there is one big weasel phrase: "for the coming decade". The rest of the paragraph implies that it is only the beginning, so any event can be explained as "just the beginning".
Actual: not scored. I'll be happy to score this in 2024.

V. Google Gets Its Mojo Back

Precise: 90%, although it's not really specified in what topic Google will excel again, but it is very specific. I substracted points for not being original - see other predictions for 2013 here or here.
Actual: 75%. Google did very well financially, and is leading for instance in number of Android devices sold. It hasn't become or been recognised (that I am aware of) as the "new Apple".

VI. The Driverless Car Becomes a Serious and Competitive Global Project

Precise: 75%. Rather precise but some vague words referencing "multiple" companies and "multiple" states.
Actual: 0%. I'm actually listing this as a fail. Yes, four US states passed laws allowing driverless cars, but this is not the wave of multiple states predicted. There is some interest in Europe, but hardly the "global" project. Maybe the case of really wanting it to become true (I know I want that, too)?

VII. e-Books Are The Books

Precise: 100%, nothing to remark.
Actual: 50%. I find mixed results searching in Google. Yes, more e-books are being sold than print copies. But overall, sales of e-books have tapered off. Furthermore, as Anderson only talks to industry leaders, he missed the upswing in independant authors E-book sales.

VIII. Enterprise IT Struggles

Precise: 75%, although I could give more. However, it was clear that 2013 was not an "IT Investment year", and the economic crisis was far from over.
Actual: 75%, because there were indeed severe constraints on IT spending, but it wasn't all bad (based on personal experience).

IX. "Hacktivist" efforts acquire an important and permanent role in political transparency

Precise: 60%, a bit vague and re-use of the prediction for 2012.
Actual: 50%. We had the Snowden affair of course, but there has been no sign of the predicted, even reluctant, transparency from governments because of it.

X. Supply Chain Security Becomes a Major Factor in Global Technology Purchases

Precise: 0%. Too many weasel words and almost a complete Bullshit Bingo card ...
Actual: 0%. I'm not too knowledgeable about the hardware part, but no evolution or even onshoring happened on the hardware side. Anderson should talk more to software developpers, as some onshoring seems to be happening since this year (again, personal experience).

So, does Anderson beats his 38% score from last year (which combined the two scoring items I used here)? Yes, and a nice 56% (on an average of 63% preciseness). But if I calculate results based on their weighted preciseness, it's only 39%... so I'm not that convinced!

Of course there was the big hit on Intel, and some decent predictions of general evolutions in the market. But a couple of items failed miserably, so in the end remember that his predictions are only (in my opinion) extrapolations of what he hears from others.

We will see if he does better for this year next year. However, on his website you can find a short summary of his predictions for this year:
  • A new and improved Microsoft.

  • Lower prices for smartphones and tablets.

  • A big emphasis on data encryption.

The first one is not very impressive. We know the CEO will change, and that might have a big effect on Microsoft, especially since the transformation "ONE Microsoft" already started last year. The second one seems almost a given (although not with Apple, we'll see...) and the third one seems derived from the Snowden affair last year. I'm also wondering what "emphasis" means ... a new algorithm, new products, more usage? It could be anything and still claimed as "emphasis".

Have a great year 2014, especially on the skeptical side ...

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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