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Jun 26, 2009

10 Worst tech predictions

Most of us love reading technology forecasts. It keeps us in sync with the times to come. Really? No, if the tech predictions below are anything to go by.

Made by tech czars and some of the biggest names in their fields, these predictions have gone way off the mark. In fact, many read like a `joke' today.

Here are 10 tech predictions that have gone awry (big time).

1. iPod will die by next year

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in February 2005, Sir Alan Michael Sugar, the founder of Amstrad, said: "Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput."

Incidentally, at the time Sugar's Amstrad and Apple were reportedly neck-and-neck in the personal computer race.

As for iPod, In October, Apple set a record for iPod sales outside of the always lucrative holiday quarter. The company sold more than 11 million iPods, an 8 per cent jump in unit growth with a 3 per cent rise in revenue over the year-ago quarter.

2. YouTube will not go far

There's just not that many videos I want to watch," said Steve Chen, a co-founder of YouTube, in March 2005. At the time YouTube featured about 50 videos. Just two years later, on November 13 2006, YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in Google stock.

Recently, Collins Stewart LLC analyst Sandeep Aggarwal estimated that the video site will generate $180 million to $200 million in revenue this year. And, Aggarwal predicts YouTube's revenue will double next year to about $400 million.

3. No need for a computer at home

"(There's) no need for a computer in the home," these are the words of Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp made in 1977.

Incidentally, he was not the first one to predict such a thing. Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM reportedly said in 1943, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

In the late 1990s, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison called PC "a ridiculous device," said today, arguing that while information appliances won't obviate the need for PCs, the latter have hidden costs, create more labour for corporate information technology departments and don't make sense for many users with scaled-down PC needs.

4. Who needs more than 640 KB

In 1981, Bill Gates allegedly said that nobody would ever need more than 640 kilobytes of memory on their personal computer.

However, in an interview to Bloomberg Businees News in 1996, Gates refuted the quote. Here's an excerpt of what he said when asked about the (in)famous quote, "I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time.

"The need for memory increases as computers get more potent and software gets more powerful. In fact, every couple of years the amount of memory address space needed to run whatever software is mainstream at the time just about doubles. This is well-known."

"When IBM introduced its PC in 1981, many people attacked Microsoft for its role. These critics said that 8-bit computers, which had 64K of address space, would last forever. They said we were wastefully throwing out great 8-bit programming by moving the world toward 16-bit computers."

"We at Microsoft disagreed. We knew that even 16-bit computers, which had 640K of available address space, would be adequate for only four or five years...." Meanwhile, I keep bumping into that silly quotation attributed to me that says 640K of memory is enough. There's never a citation; the quotation just floats like a rumor, repeated again and again.

5. TV won't last

Here's something for all those couch potatoes there. "TV won't last because people would, "soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night," said Darryl Zanuck in 1946. Zanuck is an Academy Award-winning producer, writer, actor, director, and studio executive who played a major part in the Hollywood.

In 1926, Lee De Forest, an American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit, said about TV, "While theoretically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming."

6. There will never be a bigger plane built

In 1933, after the first flight of the Boeing 247, a plane that could hold ten people, a proud Boeing engineer reportedly said, "There will never be a bigger plane built."

Similarly in 1904, Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, said "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

7. Spam will be solved

The problem of spam e-mail messages will be gone within two years, Bill Gates promised in January 2004.

Speaking at a session of the World Economic Forum, Gates, the chairman of the Microsoft Corporation, said that the company was working on three ways to enable e-mail users to keep spam out of their computers.

The first two, he said, would involve having computers reply automatically to any email messages from senders not known to that computer -- that is, not in the mail list of the email programme installed on the computer -- with a request to solve a problem that could be handled by a person but not by a computer.

The third way, which Gates said was likely to arrive later but be the long-term solution, would require that email messages sent by strangers come with postage attached, the equivalent of a postage stamp.

8. eBay will be huge in China

In February 2005, eBay CEO Meg Whitman, said, "We are on a tear to be the undisputed winner in China." Come, December 2006, eBay announces that it would close its operations in China and become the junior partner to Tom Online, a Chinese Internet portal and wireless firm.

With this eBay became another US firms that offloaded its China Internet investments to local partners. CEO Whitman reportedly spent some $100 million in 2005 on the site, only to lose ground to Alibaba, Yahoo's partner in China.

9. Telephone is inherently of no value

In 1962, Dennis Gabor, British physicist and author of Inventing the Future wrote, "Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.

Similarly in an internal memo in 1879 Western Union Co said, "telephone" has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

10. Photocopiers are niche

"The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most," IBM told the eventual founders of Xerox in 1959.

According to Wikipedia, by 1961 Xerox had almost $60 million in revenue, and this value had leapt to $500 million by 1965.

In 1957, the editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, predicted, "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

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