6 premature predictions of tech failure

Sometimes really smart people say really stupid things. Here are six instances when tech execs made bold predictions -- and ended up eating their words.

By , ITworld |  Hardware, Android, Bill Gates

Whoopsie daisy. But hang on: Gates wasn't the only one who thought Apple might suffer from premature dissipation. That same year, then-Motorola CEO Ed Zander publicly knocked Apple's new iPod Nano model, asking: "What the hell does the Nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs?"

(Moto later did damage control and claimed the comments were "taken out of context"; Zander was merely joking when he made the remarks, company reps insisted. We'll leave it up to you to decide.)

Finally, across the pond, Britain's Sir Alan Sugar -- the guy behind U.K. electronics giant Amstrad -- is credited with an iPodcalyptic prophecy of his own. Sugar reportedly went on the record as saying the iPod had until the following Christmas before it would be "dead, finished, gone, kaput."

Suffice it to say, he was incorrect, wrong, misguided, mistaken.


2. The Internet's no big thing.

Plenty of tech tycoons doubted the power of these here InterTubes when they first started to show commercial promise. Among the naysayers -- you guessed it -- was Microsoft's own Bill Gates.

A couple of infamous Internet-bashing quotes have been attributed to Gates, though some debate now exists over whether he actually said them. The most notorious is the purported 1993 remark: "The Internet? We are not interested in it." Then, in '94, some claim Gates uttered the embarrassing line: "I see little commercial potential for the Internet for the next 10 years."

At this point, whether or not Gates said those things is a matter of conjecture. We do know, however, that while speaking at a University of Washington event in 1998, Gates admitted he wasn't exactly at the front of the Internet bandwagon.

"Sometimes we do get taken by surprise," Gates confessed. "For example, when the Internet came along, we had it as a fifth or sixth priority."

Even more extreme, Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com and inventor of Ethernet, predicted a literal implosion of the Internet as we know it. Writing for InfoWorld in 1995, Metcalfe said:

"Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."

To his credit, Metcalfe later fessed up to the misjudgment, and -- during a now-legendary speech at a tech conference in 1997 -- blended a physical copy of his column with liquid and then drank it to symbolize eating his words.

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