Back in 2007 I posted about a research leader (who retired this year) at Microsoft who made some predictions on the future which could be summarised as the following
- Single processing is an old school idea - this was pointing out the obvious in 2007 and indeed obvious in 1990 and before if you know anything about decent scale systems. This was a prediction of the future being the same as the present and recent past - not so much a prediction as a statement
- The end of low-level programming languages - as above, this wasn't a prediction but a statement of current reality dressed up as a prediction. The line "Once considered an extravagant use of memory, compilers are now essential tools" is brilliant. WTF is Node.js in this world? So wrong its gone around the other side....
- Virtual Memory is dead in next generation OSes.... umm so that would exclude Windows 7 and Windows 8 then.... clearly Microsoft don't consider them next generation
- You'll be carrying around all the personal storage you need for video and audio... my 4 TB of video would disagree
- Next generations OSes will use DB technologies not file systems .... again a world of MS #fail on this one
Now the first 2 were predictions of 'yesterday' being put forward as the future, 3 was a lack of vision as to what virtual memory is actually for... but the real point here is that later 2.
This was 2007 remember. A year in which I was talking about Google SaaS and Amazon AWS to lots of folks and here we have someone who was a research leader at Microsoft really missing the point of the next wave, not a 10 year+ wave but the wave that was about to crash across the entire company. 4 has been replaced by iCloud and other approaches that mean you don't need to carry it all with you (and with video and TV you probably couldn't anyway) but instead can access it on demand via mobile broadband. The final point is really just that Windows Vista should have had that DB technology but didn't and you know what? None of us are missing it. Spotlight on Mac OS X and the new Windows 7 search stuff means we don't need that DB approach and out in the real-world we are seeing people using NoSQL approaches over traditional DBs.
My point here is simple. Here was someone at the top of the research tree in one of the biggest tech companies in the world and his 5 'top' predictions were all total bobbins. So what does that mean for the rest of us? Well first of all it means listen to the shiny fringe and read about the leading practice of the past. Secondly it means don't listen to the 'vision' of companies with a bought in objective of extending the present. Thirdly it shows that missing the wave costs a lot of money to catch-up and profitability becomes an issue (see:Bing, Windows Mobile, etc)
Above all it means challenging visions, and then measuring companies against them.