I watched a bit of an infomercial for The Bible Code. It was pretty funny.
Supposedly, the authors have decrypted a complex scheme through which the Bible predicts specific events. The infomercial presented large numbers of past successful predictions as proof. Here’s a shocker: It didn’t include one prediction for the future (at least in the segment I watched).
Predicting the past is easy. The future is tougher.
This month we’ve been reviewing predictions made in this column. Let’s wrap it up.
Non-success of the Network Computer: Larry Ellison’s original idea — that a system using Java for its OS, downloading Java applications from servers for execution would supplant the PC — continues to go nowhere.
New Definition of Network Computing: More a hope than prediction, I described a return to the idea of dynamically assigned, completely portable processes. I’m still hoping (Java’s increasing focus on the mid-tier leads to optimism), but so far, it’s still way to hard to reallocate processes around the network.
Americanization of American Culture: Two years ago I predicted that the Internet would strengthen Americans’ heritage of semi-anarchic individualism. One year ago I presented Jesse Ventura’s election over two empty suits as evidence of the trend. This year an empty suit seems less undesirable. I still think the prediction will be borne out, but it will be accompanied by reinforcement of the natural resentment many Americans have for verifiable information and tight logic. Because the Internet makes fact and fabrication virtually (as it were) indistinguishable, it will let anyone rationalize any nitwit notion at all.
Globalization of American Culture: I also predicted that other cultural influences would diversify Americans’ ideas in some uncomfortable ways, using the greater comfort some other cultures have with erotica as an example. How about it? Abercrombie and Fitch sent out a highly provocative catalog. Critics loudly complained because a scene from Eyes Wide Shut, in which Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman did the nasty on screen, was digitally altered to hide the details. I could claim victory, but I won’t — this doesn’t appear to be an Internet-based phenomenon. Evidence? Just for giggles I looked for porn on a few search engines. Few of the sites had foreign domain names. I guess we can lay claim to being sex-merchants to the world, and not the other way around.
Internet 1.5: This was my name for enhanced ISP services, such as guaranteed quality of service within an ISP’s network. This seems to be happening, but without much visibility so far. Look for 2000 to be the breakthrough year, and a division of the ISP market into small, low-cost commodity providers and large, value-added networks.
IP Telephony: I still think this will be huge, but disagree with the industry mavens who say it will be “driven by the applications it enables”. What applications? Everything IP telephony offers has been available for years through CTI. What will drive IP telephony is its reduced cost, easier management, and availability from the data vendors with whom IS is most comfortable. What may kill it is the odd prominence Windows NT has as a platform. Telephony requires “five-nines” reliability. NT isn’t a five-nines platform. Look for migration of IP telephony to more reliable platforms. Also look for Lucent, Nortel and Cisco to help Microsoft improve NT’s reliability as they realize what a leaky boat they’ve invested in.
Linux: So far, big success as a server and still a fringe player on the desktop, as foretold. 2000 won’t be the year for Linux on the desktop, either. Has it become “just another UNIX” as I also predicted? Not yet … not yet. But as Linux succeeds, it’s becoming a corporate play and the hobbyists who made it succeed will increasingly find themselves the objects of corporate America’s traditional expression of gratitude … derision and indifference.
And finally …
Y2K Movies: I predicted a glut. All we saw was one made-for-TV movie.
Sometimes, being wrong is better.