It’s easy to be nostaligic about the past, but the future is brighter


When I look back at my career so far it is easy to fall into a longing for how things once were in the tech industry.  Certainly when I speak with many fellow Microsoft friends who were there in the era of greatness we love to talk about how everything was so much fun and success in driving the future always seemed obvious.  That is an easy thing to do when what you are really doing is looking back upon your youth.  I can only add that it was fun but the road before us in technology is far wider, far faster and far greater.

One thing I have felt for a long time is no matter what cutting edge field you decide to play in, whether it be robotics, nanotechnology, biotech, technology or simpler things like consumer electronics, they all share one thing in common it will take great software to make those things a reality.  The ease of use for consumer electronics is driven by software (anyone own a iPhone?).  The mapping of the human body to make robots act and think like humans will require great break troughs in software development.  The vast computational metrics required for nanotechnology will require great software.  To cure cancer will require great software.  Yes, other things will be necessary – great minds, faster hardware, but as my old CEO Bill Gates used to say, “Software is where the magic happens”.

Now what are some things that are going to happen soon, that will be fun and exciting?  Here I will offer up some thoughts on what I think both the near and long-term future will hold for us.  Some I think will be rather obvious as, like many things, they have been talked about for many years they just have not occurred.

  • In the next ten years all school text books will be digitized and students will have a iPad or similar device at all grade levels(Android based for example). 
  • Anyone under the age of fifty, before they die will go to a bar and order a drink – it will be made and served by a robot
  • The home media center (that centralized hub for music, TV, Games, video etc..) will finally become a reality and most homes in the US – please I do not want any comments from some technical snob with a home router and dedicated storage saying “I already have one” – what will happen is we will have something simple everyone can use.
  • Vacuum cleaners as we know them will disappear as robotic appliance like Rumba will be the norm
  • Within 10 years Microsoft Windows will have less than 70% market share (in my mind this will spur innovation)
  • Lanline Telephone Services will disappear within 10 years as wireless will hit speeds never imagined (Gigabyte Wireless anyone??)…..Not so hard when you think less than 20 years ago at Microsoft I started with a PC  hard drive that had 40mb.
  • Within 15 years all medical records will be digitized
  • Dentists will grow your teeth – no more fillings (my dentists says I am too optimistic on this one…he justs says this because I am good business for him)
  • Cars will not need you to drive them…just plug in the coordinates (sorry car lovers that is just the way it will be). Eric Schmidt CEO of Google spoke to this specific point at TechCrunch 2010

All these things will be good for the economy and our day-to-day lives.  Before we get to gushing about the possibilities I should add that like all things in technology they come with a price.  We need a break through in how we will power all this technology.  One thing that is missing is what will be a big break through in power utilization. Another question is what will be the cost to humans.  How lazy will we become?  One thing they seem to miss in discussions about obese America is how everything we need can be controlled from our couch.  What scares me even more is some people like it.  How about a proposal to congress, if you can’t get off your coach no healthcare?

There is a dark side to technological advancement.  With these advances the information available to those who would do ill against their fellow-man or woman has never been greater.  Will there be a bio-terrorism attack in a subway? Airport? Office building?  Unfortunately I can add that to my list of predictions.  But my old CEO Bill Gates never looked at things that way he was a opimist on everything to do with technology.  So I leave this article to him rather than take you down the darker side of my soul.

As I wrote my coming predictions I found it easy.  I could probably easily add fifty more predictions.  But the trick in any advancement is not predicting it but timing it.  There were many efforts at a Kindle before the Kindle.  As I saw Newt Gingrich say in a speech on CSPAN when reflecting on the past century and moving forward in this one, “If you take all the advancements of the 20th Century, we will surpass them all in the first 25 years of the 21st century”.  I will not go out on a limb in just adding Newt is right.  That’s not a prediction that’s just the way things will be.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann September 30, 2010

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