In 1999, Bill Gates made 19 bold predictions in a book titled Business @ The Speed of Thought on the future of internet. All of them seemed outrageous at the time. They were made right before the Dot-com bubble, so it was hard to see any future in tech at the time. But, as business major Markus Kirjonen of Aalto University pointed out in his blog, they turned out to be “incredibly accurate predictions.”
1. Sites for comparing prices.
What Gates predicted: “Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries.”
What we have today: You can easily search and compare prices on sites like Amazon, Ebay, Google Shopping, etc. If you’re looking to travel, you can use specialty sites like HipMunk or Priceline to find the lowest airline prices.
2. Mobile will be huge
What Gates predicted: “People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices.”
What we have today: Yes, Gates predicted the [omnipresence] of smartphones before Steve Jobs even invented the iPhone. Even though Microsoft couldn’t be the dominant player in the market, Gates knew what was coming up.
3. Pay online for everything
What we have today: PayPal have eliminated pretty much all friction in online payment. All major banks now allow you to pay bills and transfer funds online. Even though the healthcare industry hasn’t changed much, there are a new wave of healthcare startups such as Intake.Me, Livongo Health, and Dr. Chrono who are working to make it easier to communicate with your doctor.
4. The Internet of Things
What Gates predicted: ‘“Personal companions” will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you’re doing.’
What we have today: We’re just starting to see a huge wave of the internet of things. Google acquired a smart home thermostat called Nest for $3.2 billion last year, and it collects all sort of data. Other companies such as Apple are expected to follow into your home.
5. In-home security camera
What Gates predicted: “Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.”
What we have today: Google bought another company called Dropcam for $555 million in 2014. Dropcam allows you to monitor your home anywhere just by logging in online. We’re also seeing a huge rise in things like baby monitors and garage door cameras that feed you live video and audio of your home.
6. Social media
What we have today: The prediction was made in 1999. MySpace wasn’t even founded yet. As of January of this year, Facebook is getting 1.23 billion monthly active users.
7. Automated promotional deals
What Gates predicted: “Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.”
What we have today: When you book a trip on HipMunk or AirBnB, you can bet you’ll receive deals about local landmarks and restaurants. Facebook and Google will also target ads based on where you live and your interests.
8. Live sports discussion
What we have today: Twitter pretty much dominates any real live discussion about any events, including sports. You can also leave live comments on sites such as ESPN and Twitch.tv (mainly used for video games).
9. Targeted advertising
What we have today: Every search term you type into Google builds up your interest portfolio. Every activity on Facebook is packaged and sold to companies who want to target you based on specific actions. Good luck browsing online without being tracked.
10. Links to sites on live TV
What we have today: Many news programs and sports games feature live stream of Twitter discussions and what people are discussing online.
11. Online activism
12. Forums based on your interest
What we have today: Sites such as Reddit allow anyone to create an account, participate in discussions, and join a community of almost anything. You can even ask celebrities questions.
13. Project management
What Gates predicted: “Project managers looking to put a team together will be able to go online, describe the project, and receive recommendations for available people who would fit their requirements.”
What we have today: Slack, a team messaging and project management hub system, recently raised $160m funding round at $2.8B valuation. Other players like Yammer (acquired by Microsoft) and HipChat are also in the space to connect teams.
14. Online recruiting
What we have today: Recruiters can pay $119.95 / month for a premium recruiter account on LinkedIn to search for prospective employees based on skills, work history, alma mater, location, interests, etc.
15. Outsourcing jobs to specialized consultants
What Gates predicted: “Companies will be able to bid on jobs, whether they are looking for a construction project, a movie production, or an advertising campaign. This will be efficient for both big companies that want to outsource work that they don’t usually face, businesses looking for new clients, and corporations that don’t have a go-to provider for the said service.”
What we have today: More new companies are specializing in things such as building mobile apps or websites. Larger companies like to hire specialized firms to do projects they don’t want to dedicate their own people to. Sites like Freelancers.com have made it easy for any small businesses to hire freelancers for projects such as building website.
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