Nathaniel Borenstein

Click here for Part One of my predictions, covering January through March April

  • Microsoft releases WinHealth NT.  This "industrial strength" release supports multiple patients, and works on the scale of a moderately large hospital.  Unfortunately, it is revealed that Microsoft lured Sanjay Gupta away from CNN to design it, and CNN promptly sues for damages.
  • All Atos employees who were seeking jobs on LinkedIn are accidentally "outed" due to the company's broader use of the system.  CEO Thierry Breton proclaims this to be a good thing, while Atos employees flock to other job sites.
  • Google purchases two of the 10 top patent law firms in America.  They are generally perceived as having overpaid, but the lawyers say it's the free food that closed the deal.
  • When Congress passes the aptly-named "Pre-election Allocation of New Dollars for Enhancing Recovery" economic stimulus act, IBM is first in line at the trough.  "With these stimulus dollars," says CEO Rometty, "we can create more jobs and ensure that great American companies like IBM continue to lead the world."  IBM stock hits 250.

May

  • Microsoft releases WinHealth 95.  Although it was preannounced as a system that would replace both WinHealth 3.1 and WinHealth NT, it is ultimately scaled back to be a toy that kids can play with to learn more about medicine.  Most kids find it too unreliable to be useful.
  • Steve Ballmer demonstrates a pre-release version of Kinect 365, spelling out an office memo using his entire body.  "It's just like the Village People spelling out YMCA," he explains.   "The Village People have always been the inspiration for my speaking style on stage, and now I can use their techniques even to send email."  After demonstrating one such email, Ballmer collapses into a nearby chair and calls for water.
  • All Atos customers are told that they now need to use Linkedin, Twitter, or Jabber to contact the company.  This message is, of course, delivered by email.
  • Google's Eric Schmidt testifies before congress about the importance of training more patent attorneys in America.  Congress agrees, but ironically names the resulting law the "Jobs Memorial Jobs Bill."
  • HP kills WebOS.  "OK, now I'm sure, we meant Palm, not WebOS, sorry,"  says CEO Whitman.  The company also announces a record first quarter loss.   Chairman Ray Lane says he has "total faith in Carly.  I mean Meg.  Whatever, you know, the broad we hired last year."

June

  • Microsoft releases WinHealth 98.  A stable, usable successor to WinHealth 95, it sweeps through the elementary schools of America.
  • A minor misspelling of a customer's Twitter handle causes Atos to leak some of that customer's proprietary information, leading to the loss of a major contract.  Atos announces that from now on, customers should contact the company using LinkedIn and Jabber only.
  • Samsung, HTC, and Google announce a joint venture in which their patent portfolios are pooled to create what some call the world's largest patent troll.  It files 73 countersuits against Apple in its first month.
  • IBM announces a global restructuring, including 20,000 layoffs worldwide.  "This is strictly a business necessity," says Rometty, "and is in no way related to the stimulus money."  Nearly 1000 of the 20,000 layoffs take place outside the US.  IBM stock rises slightly, to 260.

Part Three of my predictions may be found here.  

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Disclaimer: Predicting the future is a black art. It is in fact conceivable that one or more of these predictions may not come true. January

  • Having said, in December, that health care reform requires a "Windows-like platform," Microsoft pre-announces WinHealth 1.0, promising a demo "eventually." Hospitals across America scramble to change their entire IT strategies.
  • Having declared its intention to ban all email use by its employees, IT company Atos announces some of the details: in phase one, employees will use only Jabber, Facebook, and Twitter internally. The details are announced in an email message to the employees and the press.
  • Apple announces that, while Steve Jobs had said he was willing to spend $40B on the patent litigation with Google over Android, they are, as a gesture in honor of his memory, doubling that amount to $80B.
  • HP announces its latest new direction: they will revive the WebOS platform by merging it with PalmOS. "By combining the best features of two failed operating systems, we believe we can give consumers the best failed system ever," says CEO Meg Whitman.

February

  • Microsoft is at pains to remind potential customers that WinHealth 1.0 is only a prototype, but by the end of the month, 2/3 of the hospitals in America have already signed on.
  • Buoyed by the success of Office 365 and Kinect, two of the most successful products in the company's history, Microsoft announces "Kinect 365," a revolutionary product that allows office workers to keep in shape while they work, using their entire bodies to control office applications.
  • A minor slip on Facebook allows all Atos employees to learn that CEO Thierry Breton's nephew has been arrested for public indecency at the Paris zoo. The company quickly decrees that employees need to use separate Facebook accounts for their work and private lives, with the work account names beginning with "atos-" to clarify their role.
  • Apple's patent attorneys petition congress for a visa exemption to bring in patent attorneys from other countries. "We just can't hire them fast enough," says CEO Tim Cook.
  • HP announces that it is killing the newly announced WebPalm merged operating system. "We were just kidding," says CEO Meg Whitman. "We really meant to focus on WebOS all along. Um, or was it Palm?"
  • IBM testifies before congress that there's no need for more H-1 visas allowing foreign engineers to work in the US. "American talent can compete with any in the world," says CEO Ginni Rometty. Congress, impressed, shelves the visa issue. As IBM stock hits 200, Rometty begins a three month tour of IBM's operations in India and China.

March

  • The first production version of WinHealth -- inexplicably numbered WinHealth 3.1 -- is released. A major limitation is that it only allows doctors to treat one patient at a time, although Microsoft points out that this wouldn't be a problem if doctors would just use a different computer for each patient. The system uses a blue screen to indicate a patient's death, which doctors and techies find amusing, but not patients or their families.
  • Using the handy new "atos-" naming convention, Atos' competitors (and recruiters) find that they can quickly identify and communicate with all Atos employees on Facebook, leading to a massive raid on Atos' talent. Atos announces they will be moving to LinkedIn. The announcement is made by email.
  • Google announces a dollar-for-dollar match with Apple's spending on the Android-related patent lawsuits. "May the company with the deepest pockets win," says Eric Schmidt.
  • The New York Times pioneers a new business model by requiring all visitors to their site to pay for their content, unless they type "pretty please" into a secure dialog box. "This ensures that no one will have access to our content without paying," said a spokesman, "unless they really, truly want it."

Part Two of my predictions may be found here.

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When I heard the news of Steve Jobs' death last night, even though I was hardly surprised, I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, as if the industry in which I've spent my career had lost its soul.

I'm rarely shy about criticizing the titans of our industry, but from the beginning Steve was different: a brilliant businessman whose primary motivation wasn't money, a CEO who involved himself in every detail of product design, and a restless perfectionist who would change his plans in a heartbeat if he saw a better way to do things.

I saw this first-hand in the 1980's, when he visited my team at Carnegie Mellon. We introduced him to sending pictures, fonts, etc., through email. He saw the value instantly, and tried to hire the whole team on the spot. When that failed, he quickly created the team that built NeXTMail, which eventually evolved into Mail.app on the Mac. Nobody ever "got it" faster than Steve -- and when he got it, he made things happen in a hurry.

One of Steve's least-mentioned talents was his mastery of email. He was surely flooded with it, yet he answered more promptly than I can. I've spent my whole career working on email, but if he had written a book on managing your email, I would have bought it the day it was released.

I also admired Steve a great deal as a person. When my wife once put the busy CEO of NeXT on hold for over ten minutes while she hunted for me, he graciously uttered not a word of complaint. And when he famously called LSD "one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life," he risked broad censure rather than betray the truth as he saw it -- that LSD had helped open his mind to the insanely great possibilities of the coming digital age.

Steve left us too soon, when he still had much to teach us. But our world is incalculably better for the 56 years he gave us. May he rest in peace.

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