How To Do Timely Technology Predictions

Henry McCracken at Time magazine has shown how to do computer technology predictions – although McCracken adamantly denies they are predictions. But actually they are deliciously witty, cleverly written yet clasically correct statistical forecasts. For under the guise of writing a)what we can assume will happen – the median value, b)what I hope will happen – the upperbound, and c)what I fear will happen – the lower bound, Henry has written an amusing three point predictions in very good strategic forecasting form. Here are two relevant examples  from the story

Windows 8

What we can assume will happen: By the end of the year–and maybe way before that–Microsoft will release its radically new, touch-centric operating system. (“Windows 8? is a code name: Its final moniker may be something else.)

What I hope will happen: Well, first of all, I hope that Windows 8 will be good. (Microsoft released a test version in September, but it’s too rough and incomplete for a final verdict.) But even if it’s great, it’s so different from Windows 7 that it’s going to take many folks a while to understand it, let alone love it. Like the shift from Microsoft’s text-oriented DOS operating system to Windows, this one could take years to play out. I’d like to see everyone from consumers to businessfolk to tech pundits acknowledge that and demonstrate some patience with Microsoft’s big new idea.

What I fear will happen: Windows 8 won’t catch on right away, and will be widely–and prematurely–declared to be a Vista-like debacle.

Apple

What we can assume will happen: Apple will release a new iPhone, a new iPad and some new Macs. (I refuse to speculate on any other items it might have up its sleeve for 2012.)

What I hope will happen: With these products and other 2012 moves, Apple will make a statement about its post-Steve Jobs future. And I hope that it will quickly make clear that its goal isn’t to reflexively channel its cofounder, doing precisely what he would have done in every instance.  That strategy might work at first, but in the long run it would turn the company into something similar to the Walt Disney Company as it existed in the years immediately following Disney’s death in 1966–the period when it produced regurgitated tripe like The Aristocats. The sooner Apple’s current management shows it’s thinking for itself, the better.

What I fear will happen: Rather than judging Apple’s 2012 products on their merits, pundits will be fixated on judging them primarily in terms of how Jobs-esque they feel–and will decide that they fall short.

Since ye Editor has just done a substantial look at Apple`s role in client computing and a very positive first review of Windows 8 Preview, these two forecasts are of particular interest. The assumption of Windows 8 appearing later in 2012  seems to be close to the consensus in the  tech community. Also  the worry about Metro in Windows 8 being too different may already have some confirmation in the slow uptake of critically acclaimed  Windows Phone 7 . What will really turn people off is a)there are  too many bugs and delays unfortunately like in Vista and b)the huge Windows 7 base of programs does not get touch enablement and tight integration with Windows 8 programs. Finally, if 8 is the only API capable of handling mobile sensors – then the transition from  Windows 7 to 8 will guaranteed to be slow and tortured which plays into the hands of rivals Android and iOS because it obsoletes the Windows apps advantage. Users will say, if these programs have to be replaced, then consider those Google Apps or the iOS iCloud as much more viable alternatives.

In the case of the Apple predictionns, there is too much pointing of the fingers at technology pundits. Apple has already fallen behind Android devices in hardware and software features as this articles points out in detail. Rather the principal question is whether the Apple closed ecosystem going to be too much of a drag on Apple innovation.

 

For the complete set of predictions, do check out the not-a-prediction article at Time`s Techland section.