- Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos all made predictions before the turn of millennium that are still coming true.
- Jobs predicted that we would carry around “slates” with “agents,” like today’s iPhones with Siri. Gates foresaw smart advertising. Bezos knew Amazon would grow beyond book-selling.
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Silicon Valley tech moguls Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos made predictions before the new millennium that are still coming true today.
Here are 9 prescient predictions made by tech execs before the turn of the century.
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Jobs predicted that we would carry around “slates” with “agents” — basically, iPhones with Siri.
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Prediction (1984): “The next stage is going to be computers as ‘agents,'” Jobs told Newsweek’s Access Magazine. “In other words, it will be as if there’s a little person inside that box who starts to anticipate what you want.”
“I’ve always thought it would be really wonderful to have a little box, a sort of slate that you could carry along with you,” Jobs told Newsweek.
Today: The iPhone was released in 2007, and the iOS digital assistant Siri launched in 2010.
Jobs also predicted car dealerships without inventory — which Tesla does today.
- Mark Matousek / Business Insider
Prediction (1996): “Take auto dealerships. So much money is spent on inventory – billions and billions of dollars. Inventory is not a good thing. Inventory ties up a ton of cash, it’s open to vandalism, it becomes obsolete. It takes a tremendous amount of time to manage. And, usually, the car you want, in the color you want, isn’t there anyway, so they’ve got to horse-trade around. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of all that inventory? Just have one white car to drive and maybe a laserdisc so you can look at the other colors. Then you order your car and you get it in a week,” Jobs said to Wired.
Today: Tesla opened its first showroom in 2008 in Los Angeles, and its stores famously have very few cars on-site. Buyers can order their custom vehicle with a salesperson or online.
Jobs’ version of storage on email is a lot like cloud storage today.
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Prediction (1996): “I don’t store anything anymore, really. I use a lot of e-mail and the Web, and with both of those I don’t have to ever manage storage. As a matter of fact, my favorite way of reminding myself to do something is to send myself e-mail. That’s my storage,” Jobs told Wired.
Now: Apple rolled out iCloud in 2011. Now, automatically saving our files on the internet through cloud services, like Google Drive and Dropbox too, is the norm.
Gates predicted the prevalence online home monitoring.
- Avery Hartmans
Prediction (1999): “Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home,” Gates forecasted in his book “Business @ the Speed of Thought.”
Today: Amazon’s Ring doorbell security cameras are being widely adopted in the US, and some local police departments even have access to the resulting footage, creating something of an unofficial surveillance network of video doorbells.
Gates caught on early to the idea of smart advertising — so smart, in fact, that users worry their phones are listening to them.
Prediction (1999): “Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences,” Gates wrote in “Business @ the Speed of Thought.”
Today: There’s a widely held belief that Facebook and Instagram listen in on people’s smartphones, and then serve advertisements based on their speech.
Gates figured job-hunting would move online — and now we have LinkedIn.
Prediction (1999): “People looking for work will be able to find employment opportunities online by declaring their interest, needs, and specialized skills,” Gates predicted in “Business @ the Speed of Thought.”
Today: LinkedIn would launch just four years after Gates made that prediction, in 2003. The number of American workers with LinkedIn profiles was 154 million in February 2019, according to Hootsuite.
Bezos said Amazon would not be a direct competitor of Barnes & Noble forever.
Prediction (1999): “I bet you a year from now they will not consider us direct competitors,” Bezos said to Wired. “Clearly they do today, but we’re on different paths … We’re trying to invent the future of e-commerce, and they’re just defending their turf.”
Today: Amazon is a robust e-marketplace with offerings well beyond books – hardware, video and music streaming, and logistics are just a few pieces of Amazon’s vast empire.
Bezos predicated that “the vast bulk” of store-bought goods would be purchased online — and now we order our toilet paper on Amazon.
- Screenshot / YouTube
Prediction (1999): “The vast bulk of store-bought goods – food staples, paper products, cleaning supplies, and the like – you will order electronically” Bezos predicted in a Wired interview about the year 2020.
Today: Amazon Prime Pantry launched in 2014, which offers “low-priced grocery and household essentials” from laundry detergent to shampoo.
Bezos foresaw a network of appliances connected to the internet — and now we have smart homes tricked out with Alexa devices.
- Jim Tanner/Reuters
Prediction (1999): “I’m a big believer in this notion of sort of appliances, that there’ll be lots of little things that are connected to the internet … There’ll be a whole bunch of things sort of connected to the network,” Bezos told Charlie Rose.
Today: Homes are now serviced by Alexa-enabled devices, from speakers to home security systems.
Lisa Eadicicco, Kif Leswing, Matt Weinberger, and Paige Leskin contributed to earlier versions of this story.