Previous Blogs

October 10, 2017
Edge Computing Could Weaken the Cloud

October 3, 2017
The Business Challenges of Artificial Intelligence

September 26, 2017
Microsoft Takes Computing to the Extremes

September 19, 2017
What is the Future of Upgrades?

September 12, 2017
It’s Time for Modern Digital Identities

September 5, 2017
The Autonomous Car Charade

August 29, 2017
The Golden Era of Notebooks

August 22, 2017
The Evolution of Smart Speakers

August 15, 2017
The Myth of General Purpose Wearables

August 8, 2017
IoT Connections Made Easy

August 1, 2017
Smarter Computing

July 25, 2017
The Value of Limits

July 18, 2017
Tech in the Heartland

June 27, 2017
Business Realities vs. Tech Dreams

June 20, 2017
The Power of Hidden Tech

June 13, 2017
Computing Evolves from Outside In to Inside Out

June 6, 2017
The Overlooked Surprises of Apple’s WWDC Keynote

May 30, 2017
Are AR and VR Only for Special Occasions?

May 23, 2017
The Digital Car

May 16, 2017
Digital Assistants Drive New Meta-Platform Battle

May 9, 2017
Getting Smart on Smart Speakers

May 5, 2017
Intel Opens High-Tech "Garage"

May 2, 2017
The Hidden Value of Analog

April 28, 2017
Google’s Waymo Starts Driving Passengers

April 25, 2017
The Robotic Future

April 21, 2017
Sony Debuts New Pro Camera

April 18, 2017
Should Apple Build a Car?

April 14, 2017
PC Market Outlook Improving

April 11, 2017
Little Data Analytics

April 7, 2017
Facebook Debuts Free Version of Workplace Collaboration Tool

April 4, 2017
Samsung Building a Platform Without an OS

March 31, 2017
Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Creators Update Release Date

March 28, 2017
Augmented Reality Finally Delivers on 3D Promise

March 24, 2017
Intel Creates AI Organization

March 21, 2017
Chip Magic

March 17, 2017
Microsoft Unveils Teams Chat App

March 14, 2017
Computing on the Edge

March 7, 2017
Cars Need Digital Safety Standards Too

February 28, 2017
The Messy Path to 5G

February 24, 2017
AMD Launches Ryzen CPU

February 21, 2017
Rethinking Wearable Computing

February 17, 2017
Samsung Heir Arrest Unlikely to Impact Sales

February 14, 2017
Modern Workplaces Still More Vision Than Reality

February 10, 2017
Lenovo Develops Energy-Efficient Soldering Technology

February 7, 2017
The Missing Map from Silicon Valley to Main Street

January 31, 2017
The Network vs. The Computer

January 27, 2017
Facebook Adds Support For FIDO Security Keys

January 24, 2017
Voice Drives New Software Paradigm

January 20, 2017
Tesla Cleared of Fault in NHTSA Crash Probe

January 17, 2017
Inside the Mind of a Hacker

January 13, 2017
PC Shipments Stumble but Turnaround is Closer

January 10, 2017
Takeaways from CES 2017

January 3, 2017
Top 10 Tech Predictions for 2017

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TECHnalysis Research Blog

October 17, 2017
Tech Inevitability Isn't Guaranteed

By Bob O'Donnell

It’s a story that would have been hard to believe a few years back.

And yet, there it was. eBook sales in the US declined 17% last year, and printed book sales were up 4.5%. What happened to the previous forecasts for electronic publishing and the inevitable decline of print? Wasn’t that widely accepted as a foregone conclusion when Amazon’s first Kindle was released about 10 years back?

Of course, there are plenty of other similar examples. Remember when iPad sales were accelerating like a rocket, and PC sales were declining? Clearly, the death of the PC was short at hand.

And yet, as the world stands five years later, iPad sales have been in continuous decline for years, and PC sales, while they did suffer some decline, have now stabilized, particularly in notebooks, which were seen as the most vulnerable category.

Then there’s the concept of virtually all computing moving to the cloud. That’s still happening, right?

Not exactly. In fact, the biggest industry buzz lately is about moving some of the cloud-based workloads out of the cloud and back down to “the edge,” where end devices and other types of computing elements live.

I could go on, but the point is clear. Many of the clearly inevitable, foregone conclusions of the past about where the tech industry should be today are either completely or mostly wrong.
Beyond the historical interest, this issue is critical to understand when we look at many of the “inevitable” trends that are currently being predicted for our future.

A world populated by nothing but completely electric, autonomous cars anyone? Sure, we’ll see an enormous impact from these vehicles, but their exact form and the timeline for their appearance are almost certainly going to be radically different than what many in the industry are touting.

The irreproachable, long-term value of social media? Don’t even get me started. Yes, the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, LinkedIn and others have had a profound impact on our society, but there are already signs of cracks in that foundation, with more likely to come.

To be clear, I’m not naïvely suggesting that many of the key trends that are driving the tech industry forward today—from autonomy to AI, AR, IoT, and more—won’t come to pass. Nor am I suggesting that the influence of these trends won’t be widespread, because they surely will be.

I am saying, however, that the tech industry as a whole seems to fall prey to “guaranteed outcomes” on a surprisingly regular basis. While there’s nothing wrong with speculating on where things could head and making forceful claims for those predictions—after all, that’s essentially what I and other industry analysts do for a living—there is something fundamentally flawed with the presumption that all those speculations will come true.

When worthwhile conversations about potential scenarios that may not match the “inevitable direction” are shut down with group think (sometimes from those with a vested interest at heart)—there’s clearly a problem.

The truth is, predicting the future is extraordinarily difficult and, arguably even, impossible to really do. The people who have successfully done so in the past were likely more lucky than smart. That doesn’t mean, however, that the exercise isn’t worthwhile. It clearly is, particularly in developing forward-looking strategies and plans. Driving a conversation down only one path when there may be many different paths available, however, is not a useful effort, as it potentially cuts off what could be even better solutions or strategies.

Tech futurist Alan Kay famously and accurately said that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” We live and work in an incredibly exciting and fast-moving industry where that prediction comes true every single day. But it takes a lot of hard work and focus to innovate, and there are always choices made along the way. In fact, many times, it isn’t the “tech” part of an innovation that’s in question, but, rather, the impact it may have on the people who use it and/or society as a whole. Understanding those types of implications is significantly harder to do, and the challenge is only growing as more technology is integrated into our daily lives.

So, the next time you hear discussions about the “inevitable” paths the tech industry is headed down, remember that they’re hardly guaranteed.

Here's a link to the column:

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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