Crystal ball reveals predictions that came true

It's 2001. We should have a self-supporting space station, a permanent outpost on the moon, and a psychotic computer running a manned mission to the moons of Jupiter.

It's 2001. We should have a self-supporting space station, a permanent outpost on the moon, and a psychotic computer running a manned mission to the moons of Jupiter.

Had we not lost interest, it might have happened. Instead, our interest in cyberspace exceeds our interest in outer space. Something is fundamentally wrong.

Or maybe not. As reported in The Register, Virtual Society's research found 28 million ex-web surfers in the United States alone -- actual reality appears to be making a comeback.

Quite a few pundits have expounded on the colossal importance of the internet, and many assign it a level of significance unparalleled since the invention of the printing press. Last year I challenged that position as extreme exaggeration. It appears I'm not alone.

Yes, it is a new year -- time to review old forecasts.

Prediction: Rather than the gratitude they deserve, the hardworking programmers who prevented a Y2K disaster will mostly receive unemployment.

Result: Pretty much as predicted. Ignorant, self-appointed voices of outrage declaimed the whole Y2K situation as a hoax. Meanwhile the staffing strategy known as "rolling layoffs" -- firing programmers with "old" skills while simultaneously recruiting others with needed new ones -- has increased in popularity.

Prediction: PCs won't be replaced by fat network technologies. They also won't gain much in new functionality, nor will the user interface improve dramatically. The PC's reliability will, however, improve.

Result: Although PC sales are off this year, that's probably an indicator of economic jitters coupled with market saturation, not an abandonment of the platform. Meanwhile, Windows 2000 is "an order of magnitude" more reliable than NT (translation: It has one more to go before it's as reliable as its competitors). And Apple Computer is, finally, nearly ready to release Mac OS X, which because of its BSD Unix core, will be far more stable than prior Mac OS releases.

Prediction: Java won't dominate language application development but will finally find a niche as the middle-tier language of choice in n-tier architecture software development. It will also continue to be used to extend browser functionality. Its performance deficiencies compared to compiled languages will continue to constrain its value.

Result: On target so far. Java is popular in the middle tier, nobody has released a significant commercial application written in pure Java, and Java is still slower than compiled C++. Microsoft's eventual release of C# and Hewlett-Packard's jumping on to the Microsoft.NET bandwagon may further impede Java's progress. (On the other hand, I've predicted failure for the Microsoft.NET scheme, but it doesn't have to succeed to hamper Java in the marketplace.)

Prediction: Within two years, Java either will be turned over to a standards body, or Sun's Java allies will start to de-emphasise it.

Result: Jury's still out. One year to go.

Prediction: (A long shot) Macromedia will turn its Flash/Shockwave/Director combination into a development platform.

Result: I've seen an actual application, an SFA (sales-force automation) package, written with Macromedia tools. I'm not wrong yet.

Prediction: Linux will find success as a server technology but will sputter on the desktop.

Result: Linux adoption as a server platform is growing faster than Windows 2000. Linux's desktop market share is still miniscule.

We'll continue next week.

Disagree with this scorecard? Send email to Bob Lewis. Lewis is a Minneapolis-based consultant with Perot Systems.

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