In 1899, the U.S. Patent Office commissioner stated that everything that can be invented has been invented. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb and phonograph, even said the radio craze will die out in no time. Such bloopers in predictions make for funny reading, since our vision is perfect in hindsight.
In 1997, when Michael Dell was CEO of Dell, he was asked by a group of IT big wigs what he would do if he were in charge of Apple. He famously told, ‘What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.’ Well, his quote may not be as sweeping as the ones above but it gives me great joy to see him eat his own words. This is perhaps the 15th time I have read about this and every time I read it makes me angry that someone could say this about Apple. And it makes me happy that he has been proven wrong. How, you may ask. Reports say that Apple’s market value (US$ 158.66 billion) is 4 times that of Dell (US$ 38.97 billion)! Why does this make me happy? The reason is not hard to find.
Ahem! Whoopee! Not that I am getting a penny out of that market value but it just makes me feel good. A little more than a month after Dell’s remark, Steve Jobs responded, speaking in front of an image of Michael Dell’s bulls-eye covered face, “We’re coming after you, you’re in our sights.” Whoa. Talk about conviction!
Talking of failed predictions (Business Today too ran a campaign based on this idea), there were a whole lot of others:
In 1936, the venerable New York Times claimed that a rocket will never leave the Earth’s atmosphere.
During information technology’s nascent days, IBM’s former chairman Thomas Watson in 1943, said: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time – Bill Gates, 2004
The right time to remember a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.