In Hindsight… Infamous Tech Industry Predictions and Quotations


The computing industry is fuelled by prediction and gossip. Before the patent became the carefully guarded weapon it is today, chip engineers from competing companies would often share an astounding amount of information on an informal basis — not just with each other, but with the wider consumer audience as well.

As an accelerated timeline of novel products, new features and standards gained momentum, the sound bite and quotable quote became the means to become noticed by a user base clamouring for any tidbit in the thousands of tech-centric forums and the endless stream of industry related magazines.

Three years before co-founding Intel and whilst working as Fairchild Semiconductors head of R&D, Gordon E. Moore authored an article “Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits” which appeared in the April 19, 1965 edition of Electronics Magazine. In that paper Moore predicted that the transistor count for a minimum component cost would double every year for at least a decade based upon Fairchild’s previous five years of IC design. So accurate a forecast — and self-fulfilling prophecy — Moore and Intel became prime movers in the industry and his prediction is enshrined as Moore’s law.

Within an industry known as much for its predictive pronouncements and verbal sparring as its actual innovation, low bandwidth morality, and elastic attitude towards intellectual property rights, many have felt compelled to follow Gordon Moore in bringing their judgements and observations into the public eye… with varying degrees of success.

“Two years from now, spam will be solved” – Bill Gates, founder and then Microsoft’s Chairman [World Economic Forum, January 2004]

“If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.” – Steve Jobs, before he returned to Apple [Fortune, February 1996]

“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders” – Michael Dell, Chairman/CEO of Dell Computers said when asked what he would do if he was CEO of Apple [Various news outlets, October 1997]

“The era of the PC is over” – Louis Gerstner, Chairman/CEO of IBM [Smart Computing, July 1999]
“There’s no doubt that the antitrust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft, and we would have been more focused on creating the phone operating system. And so instead of using Android today, you would be using Windows Mobile” – Bill Gates on why he thinks Microsoft was unable to build the world’s most popular mobile OS… he got too personally involved with the company’s antitrust battle in the late 90s [New York Times DealBook Conference – November 2019]
“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” – Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO [USA Today, April 2007]

“Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation” – Satya Nadella, email to employees on his first day as Microsoft’s CEO [Microsoft Press Release, February, 2014]

“In five years we’re going to sit around and laugh that we even had operating system wars; there’s just going to be Linux. We’re going to take over” – Trae McCombs, site manager [Maximum Linux, October 1999]

“I wish I had the money to make tons of investments at the start of the internet revolution. I could see it coming” … “We started the Vision Fund at the very beginning of the AI revolution” – Masayoshi Son, SoftBank Group founder [June 2019]

“In the future, the primary means of communication with computers will be through speech, not through graphics” – Nicholas Negroponte, director of MIT’s Media Lab. [BYTE, November 1989]

“We are currently not planning on conquering the world” – Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, Alphabet Inc. President

“The question isn’t ‘What do we want to know about people?’ It’s, ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?” – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO [Charlie Rose interview, November 2011]
Discussing Facebook’s impact on society: “It’s addictive; it’s not good for you; they’re after your kids, they’re running political ads that aren’t true.” – Marc Benioff, Salesforce founder and co-CEO, calling for Facebook to be broken up [CNN interview, October 2019]
“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” – Eric Schmidt, Google CEO [The Atlantic, October 2010]

“I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse” – Robert Metcalfe, Founder of 3com and co-inventor of the Ethernet wrote this in a magazine column [Infoworld, December 1995]

“We want to try and build a place where people can come to find and discover anything that they might want to buy online” – Jeff Bezos, founder, about 15 years before Amazon became one of the biggest forces of the internet and worldwide retail, among other things [Charlie Rose Show, May 1999]

“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do … The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?” – Larry Ellison, Oracle co-founder and CEO [Analyst conference, September, 2008]

– Tandy’s Radio Shack division financial VP when asked about the IBM PC“There definitely is a new kid on the block, but there is nothing that IBM has presented that would blow the industry away”[Business Week, August 24, 1981]By 1989, eight years after its introduction, the IBM PC and its clones had captured 83.6% of the personal computing market.

– John Roach, Tandy President in August 1981 when asked about the impact that IBM’s imminent move into personal computing with the IBM PC“I don’t think it’s that significant”[The Making of Microsoft, by Daniel Ichbiah and Susan Knepper, 1991]

“Stone Age. Bronze Age. Iron Age. We define entire epics of humanity by the technology they use. In fact, technology has been the story of human progress from as long back as we know. In 100 years people will look back on now and say, “That was the Internet Age.” And computers will be seen as a mere ingredient to the Internet Age.” – Reed Hastings, Netflix co-founder and CEO [Education Innovation Summit, May 2002]

At the COMDEX expo in Las Vegas on 18 Nov 1996, Andrew Grove (Intel CEO and President) predicts that by 2011, Intel CPUs will integrate one billion transistors, operate at 10 GHz and be capable of 100,000 MIPS (millions of instructions per second). Intel’s Gulftown would meet two of those criteria (1.17 billion transistors and 147,600 MIPS) in 2010. We are still waiting on the third.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” – Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation [1977]

“What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” – Steve Jobs, Apple founder [film “Memory & Imagination,” 1990]

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore. Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.” – Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry CEO, when emphasizing phones’ predominance over tablets [April 2013]

“There are no plans to make a tablet. It turns out people want keyboards… we look at the tablet, and we think it is going to fail.” – Steve Jobs, at the 2003 All Things Digital conference. Apple would ship the iPad seven years later

“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.” – Elon Musk warns about AI, saying it could be our biggest existential threat[MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics’s Centennial Symposium, October 2014]

“I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the biggest evils in this industry is the family plan” – John Legere, T-Mobile US CEO, before he announced T-Mobile’s offer to pay for customers’ termination fee if they want to switch carriers [CES 2014, January 2014]

“I believe the internet will have a native currency and I don’t know if it’s bitcoin. I think it will be [bitcoin] given all the tests it has been through and the principles behind it, how it was created” – Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square [Joe Rogan Experience podcast, February 2019]

“Above all, what we’ll never see fly is the scanner / printer / fax / copier combo” – John C. Dvorak [PC Magazine, November 27, 1990]

“I can see the day when Apple won’t be in the personal computer business” and “The personal computer business as we have known it is not very attractive for the Nineties” – John Sculley, CEO and Chairman of Apple Computer [Fortune Magazine, July 26, 1993]

“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” – Eric Schmidt, software engineer, former Google/Alphabet CEO and Chairman

On not selling to Facebook… “There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this. I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting.” – Evan Spiegel, Snapchat co-founder and CEO

“We don’t see Windows as a long-term graphical interface for the masses” – Lotus Development official at the demonstration of a new DOS version of Lotus 1-2-3 [BYTE, June 1989]Windows 3.0 would launch twelve months later

“[DOS will be] with us forever. We’ve learned how passionate people are about DOS” – Brad Silverberg, Microsoft VP [InfoWorld, July 29, 1991]

“No one wants to work with Microsoft any more. We sure won’t. They don’t have any friends left” – Philippe Kahn, Chairman of Borland International [Hard Drive – Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire, by James Wallace and Jim Erickson, 1992].

“My name is Linus, and I am your God.”

“See, you not only have to be a good coder to create a system like Linux, you have to be a sneaky bastard too.” – Linus Torvalds, software engineer, Linux creator

“I came illiterate, now I’m leaving virtually retarded” – Jay Leno during a rehearsal for the Microsoft Windows 95 launch in August 1995. [Overdrive – Bill Gates and the Race to Control Cyberspace, by James Wallace, 1997]

“I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America” – Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, responding to a question which specified “in the next 10 to 15 years.” [ Village Global VC event, September 2018]

– Richard Shaffer, publisher of Computer Letter regarding the Apple-IBM (and Motorola) alliance formed on October 2, 1991“It’s like a surfer girl marrying a banker”[Hard Drive – Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire, by James Wallace and Jim Erickson, 1992]

“There is a reason they call it hardware—it is hard.” – Tony Fadell, one of the fathers of the iPod and Nest Labs founder [LeWeb conference, 2012]

“What we maybe should’ve realized sooner was that we are running a political campaign and the candidate is Uber. And this political race is happening in every major city in the world. And because this isn’t about a democracy, this is about a product, you can’t win 51 to 49. You have to win 98 to 2 ” – Travis Kalanick, Uber co-founder [Vanity Fair, November 2014]

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, Dropbox co-founder and CEO

(On PS3’s price) “We want consumers to think to themselves ‘I will work more hours to buy one.’” – Ken Kutaragi, Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment [Toyo Keiza, July 2005]

“The market is confusing, although it provides us with some sort of job security” – Richard Bader, Intel General Manager [Personal Computing, October 1988]

“[Intel’s Pentium name] better suited as “a name for toothpaste” – W. Jerry Sanders III, AMD Chairman

“One thing’s for sure, *nobody* is going to call it the Pentium” – John C. Dvorak [both PC Magazine, January 12, 1993]

“The only strategic relationship that works is a purchase order” – Scott McNealy, CEO Sun Microsystems on the same AIM alliance [MacUser, January 1984]

“Coding is like writing, and we live in a time of the new industrial revolution. What’s happened is that maybe everybody knows how to use computers, like they know how to read, but they don’t know how to write.” – Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO [April 2016]

“We weren’t first on the MP3 player; we weren’t first on the tablet; we weren’t first on the smartphone. But we were arguably the first modern smartphone, and we will be the first modern smartwatch—the first one that matters.” – Tim Cook, Apple CEO on launching the Apple Watch [March 2015, Fast Company interview]

“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works” … “Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.” – Clifford Stoll, astronomer, author and teacher [Newsweek – “The Internet,” 1995]

“When the anthropologists dust off the 1980s and 1990s and look at the productivity dip, they’re going to blame [Microsoft] Office”- Scott McNealy, Chairman /CEO of Sun Microsystems [BYTE, January 1997]

This feature was originally published in December 12, 2013. We’ve since added several more quotes, revised and removed some, and bumped the article because it’s as relevant and intereting today as it was then. Part of our #ThrowbackThursday initiative.


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