Incorrect predictions are commonplace in the technology space, with high-profile personalities like IBM president Thomas Watson and Microsoft founder Bill Gates putting their foot in it.
One of the worst ever technology predictions came from Watson, who said in 1943 that “there is a world market for maybe five computers”.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ 2004 comment that “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, probably never” was also less than prophetic.
And then there is Dell founder Michael Dell’s 1997 view that “I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders”.
Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold shared Dell’s view with his prediction that “Apple is already dead”.
Many South Africans have also tried their hand at predicting the future. Some were right on the money, while others had to eat their words.
Former Sanral chairperson Tembakazi Mnyaka: E-tolling in Gauteng
November 2013: Former Sanral chairperson Tembakazi Mnyaka wrote a column titled “Motorists will find e-tolls fuss was storm in a teacup”, saying that “road users will be hugely surprised by the relatively insignificant effect it will have on their pockets” and that “news about the so-called ‘downside’ is vastly exaggerated.”
November 2014: Mnyaka was proved wrong. E-tolling is definitely not a storm in a teacup, and the battle regarding e-tolls is as fierce as ever. The controversial e-tolling system has, to an extent, even divided the ANC.
Former Cell C CEO Jeffrey Hedberg: Future of 3G
April 2008: Former Cell C CEO Jeffrey Hedberg said that “3G is hype and we won’t fall prey to hype”. He added that Cell C cannot justify investing money into something [3G/HSDPA] that does not offer a good return on investment.
November 2014: Data, and specifically data through 3G networks, forms a core part of all mobile operators’ growth strategies. Without proper 3G, and now 4G networks, mobile operators simply cannot compete or survive.
Former LLU Committee chairman Tshilidzi Marwala: LLU
June 2007: Former Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) Committee chairman Tshilidzi Marwala said that the LLU process will be completed in 2011. “By the end of 2007 all the mechanisms will be in place for Telkom to open up the local loop to rivals”, he said, adding that he expected Telkom to start giving rivals access to its copper infrastructure by January 2008.
November 2014: Marwala completely misjudged the South African telecoms market. Over seven years later and LLU is nowhere closer to becoming a reality.
Late communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Digital TV
September 2008: Former communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said that the switch-off date for analogue terrestrial television broadcasts was to be 1 November 2011.
November 2014: Five communications ministers later and there is no clarity on when digital TV broadcasts will replace analogue broadcasting.
Telkom: Capped broadband
June 2010: Telkom went on the offensive against uncapped ADSL products, with a newsletter insert titled “Broadband: Put a cap on it”.
November 2014: Telkom has become a prominent provider of uncapped broadband products, which include uncapped ADSL, VDSL, and LTE products.
Paul Theron, CEO of Vestact Limited: Cell C future
August 2013: Analyst Paul Theron said that Cell C has decimated its own business case and will be dead within six months.
November 2014: Cell C is alive and kicking, and continues to invest in its network and its mobile operations.
Former Web Africa CEO Matthew Tagg: Afrihost price war
September 2009: Former Web Africa CEO Matthew Tagg said that Afrihost’s R29 per GB price cut was a fantastic piece of publicity, but it would not spark any price war.
February 2010: ADSL data prices plummeted in the months following Afrihost’s R29 per GB launch, with rates as low as R14 per GB.
Optimal Energy: Joule, South African electric car
September 2008: Optimal Energy, the company behind the Joule, said that the electric car would be sold in all major South African centres – Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban – and would be available towards the end of 2010.
June 2012: Optimal Energy announced its intention to close down, without any commercial Joule vehicles sold.
Many industry players: Seacom and broadband prices
June 2009: Many industry players warned that Seacom’s launch would not result in a sharp fall in broadband prices.
March 2010: Within 12 months of the launch of Seacom, ADSL data prices plummeted and MWEB launched the country’s first affordable uncapped ADSL products.