The Tech That Failed

January 18, 2010

Dan Tynan had a nice piece in InfoWorld here detailing six technologies that were once widely touted to “change everything” but have failed to live up to their hype. This illustrates the stubborn tendency of humans to make predictions even though the evidence for our ability to do this accurately is abysmal. Tynan’s Top 6 are:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Computer-aided software engineering
  3. Thin client computing
  4. Enterprise resource planning systems
  5. Business to Business Internet Marketplaces
  6. Enterprise Social Media

Ken Auletta’s recent book, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, may be redundant given the number of books already published on the subject; it certainly has one of the most short-sighted titles ever given a business biography. It’s as if Mr. Auletta equates a search-engine based Web 2.0 company with the discovery of fire, or perhaps electricity.

Every business book writer today aspires to be Malcolm Gladwell and this sort of title inflation is, I think, a symptom of that understandable desire.

But his conclusion — in the form of the classic journalistic thumb-sucker “on the one hand this, on the other hand that” — dovetails nicely with Mr. Tynan’s analysis.

“Google appears to be well positioned for the foreseeable future, but it is worth remembering that few companies maintain their dominance. At one point, few thought the Big Three auto companies would ever falter — or the three television networks or AT&T, IBM or AOL.  For companies with histories of serious missteps — Apple, IBM — it was difficult to imagine that they’d rebound, until they did.”

In my view Opinions and Predictions are among the least productive of all human imaginings and I predict that in 2011 everyone will come to agree with my opinion on this.


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