Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Atlantic: Bill Gates: More Profit Than Prophet

"It's been 15 years since Bill Gates published The Road Ahead, a book packed with theMicrosoft (Nasdaq: MSFT - News) founder's predictions about the future. How do Gates's prophecies hold up now that the road ahead has arrived? Let's take a look at Bill's hits and misses:"

"The Internet and the Web

Prediction: Gates's 286-page book mentions the World Wide Web on only four of its pages, and portrays the Internet as a subset of a much a larger "Information Superhighway." The Internet, wrote Gates, is one of "the important precursors of the information highway," along with PCs, CD-ROMs, phone networks, and cable systems, but "none represents the actual information highway. ... today's Internet is not the information highway I imagine, although you can think of it as the beginning of the highway."

Verdict: Miss. Gates's notion that the Internet would play a supporting role in the information highway of the future, rather than being the highway itself, was out-of-date the day The Road Ahead was published. Even Gates realized it. Shortly before his book hit the stores, Gates reorganized Microsoft to focus more on the Internet, and he made major revisions to a second edition of The Road Ahead, adding material that highlighted the significance of the Internet. In many ways, Gates's cloudy crystal ball regarding the Internet amounted to wishful thinking.

Gates built Microsoft into a global powerhouse by selling proprietary software that users loaded onto their PCs. He wasn't likely to warm to the idea that the same functions could be delivered cheaper and faster through a decentralized network that he couldn't control. Of all of the predictions Gates missed in The Road Ahead, this one might be the costliest. Microsoft is still playing catch-up as a result of failing to anticipate the dominance of the Internet."

sent you: Blueberry Cheesecake.

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