In the 1980s and 1990s, Steve Jobs predicted virtual assistants like Siri and e-commerce giants like Amazon long before these services existed. His biggest prediction of all was that the Web would be ubiquity and everyone would have ability to connect at any time online.
In addition to one of the leading roles in the technical product revolution, Jobs was recognized for his ability to predict the future. One of his favorite sayings is: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
However, looking back, many of Jobs’ predictions hit the bull’s eye.
"We will all be connected through the computer"
In the same interview, Jobs explained that the most mesmerizing reason why people would buy computers for private use was they were “connected to a worldwide communications network.”
His prediction came four years before Tim Berners-Lee lead the development of the World Wide Web, and five years before the first web page became available for public inspection.
"It's much faster to do all kinds of functions, such as cutting and pasting, with a mouse"
Before Jobs released the Lisa computer in 1983, most personal computers required all instructions to be entered through the keyboard. When Jobs presented his mouse he made all these commands visually simple even for those who barely know how to use a computer.
Today, a computer mouse is something that we all take for granted, it now becomes a kind of quirk due to advances in touch-screen technology, popular on mobile phones and tablets from Apple and other companies.
"We'll be using computers at home, for fun"
In 1985, Steve Jobs told Playboy that the use of personal computers would expand. At that time, computers were mostly used only in companies, schools, and by several innovators who started their business at home.
In 1984, only 8% of American households owned computers, according to the US Census Bureau. By 2015, this figure reached 79%.
As Jobs predicted, today, computers are a source of relaxation for millions of people, whether watching movies or television, video games, or chatting with friends.
"There will be web dial tone everywhere"
In an extensive interview with Wired in 1996, Jobs predicted that the Internet would be received and used by consumers around the globe.
Jobs was able to accurately predict the ubiquity of the Internet. As of April 2019, approximately 4.4 billion people worldwide use the Internet. This is approximately 56% of the world’s population, and 81% of the adult population.
"You may not have to manage your own storage"
Jobs emphasized the need to provide consumers with ways to distribute storage long before we all started storing photos, videos and data in Apple’s Cloud or on Google Drive. Here is what he told Wired magazine in 1996:
“[Managing storage is] a very big thing in a desktop world. And that may go away. You may not have to manage your own storage. You may not store much before too long.”
He added: “I don’t store anything anymore, really. I use a lot of email 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 email. That’s my storage.”
Apple's strategy is to "put an incredibly great computer in a book"
In 1983, most personal computers were huge, heavy boxes in workshops and laboratories. However, in his speech at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Jobs predicted that computers would become more mobile.
He talks about “an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you that you that you can learn in five minutes.”
In his interview for Newsweek’s Access, he added: “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.”
All this sounds like a description of a tablet, Kindle or smartphone that fits in your pocket.
"It will be as if there's a little person inside that box who starts to anticipate what you want"
In the same interview for Newsweek, Jobs described computers as “agents” storing our information, learning our interests, interacting with us, and learning to anticipate our every need, becoming what Jobs called “a little friend inside this box.”
Today Alexa and Siri became indispensable digital assistants for millions of people.
"People are going to stop going to a lot of stores. And they're going to buy stuff over the web"
In 1995, at the Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation, Jobs highlighted the tremendous impact of the Internet that commerce would soon experience. He foresaw how the web would allow small startups to reduce expenses on distribution and compete with larger corporations by trading directly with customers.
Today, millions of companies trade on the Internet, from tiny specialized vendors to giants like Amazon.
Jobs also predicted the price of not getting on board with e-commerce.
He told Wired magazine in 1996: “People are going to stop going to a lot of stores. And they’re going to buy stuff over the web. Large companies not paying attention to change will get hurt.”
Now we see Walmart closing its stores while Amazon continues to make billions of dollars in online sales, Walmart can’t say they weren’t warned.
"You'd get one of these things when you were 10 years old"
In an interview with Newsweek’s Access, Jobs said: “You’d get one of these things maybe when you were 10 years old, and somehow you’d turn it on and it would say, you know, ‘Where am I?’ And you’d somehow tell it you were in California.”
An Influence Central study reports that the average age at which an American child receives his / here first cellphone is 10.3 today.
"People will get more information than they can assimilate"
In 1996, when consumers were still experimenting with sending and receiving their first emails, it seemed inconceivable that we would be juggling more information than we could handle, despite Steve Jobs’s warnings about information overload, delivered in his Wired magazine interview in 1996.
Cut to 2019, and the average American now checks their phone 52 times a day, according to a consumer survey conducted by Deloitte.
However, not all of Jobs predictions came true.
In 1983, he said: “I believe that we are waiting for a lot of innovations in the world of software, and not in the field of hardware”
When Jobs talked to Playboy in 1983, IBM was the biggest Apple’s competitor in computer manufacturing.
Therefore, in those days, his words did not seem so far from the truth: “I don’t think there are going to be a lot of third- and fourth-place companies, much less sixth- or seventh-place companies. Most of the new, innovative companies are focusing on the software. I think there will be lots of innovation in the areas of software but not in hardware.”
In fact, Microsoft soon pulled ahead, seizing the market with such an iron grip that the US government had to investigate its anti-competitive behavior.
Today, three companies — Microsoft, Google, and Apple — are the key software manufacturers, while the battle for hardware supremacy is between Samsung, Dell, HP, Acer, and other companies. Here, Jobs was wrong.
He was also wrong when he said, 'Is the web going to be a life-changing event for millions of people? No.'
Perhaps Jobs just showed modesty when he told Wired in 1996:
“The web is going to be very important. Is it going to be a life-changing event for millions of people? No. I mean, maybe. But it’s not an assured yes at this point. And it’ll probably creep up on people.
“It’s certainly not going to be like the first time somebody saw a television. It’s certainly not going to be as profound as when someone in Nebraska first heard a radio broadcast. It’s not going to be that profound.”
Given how many people today use the Internet on a daily basis for their business needs, social interaction, entertainment, knowledge and for news, it seems that Jobs was completely wrong in this prediction.