Computer? Nope, not anymore. Tablet, smartphone, smart appliances with embedded operating systems, connected TVs and multimedia centers? Sure. Computers? Not so much anymore.
"Within five years, I predict [the tablet] will be the most popular form of PC sold in America." -- Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, in a 2002 speech at Comdex introducing the Windows Tablet PC and its (required) stylus
With this statement, Gates popularized the prediction that is right in principle and disastrously wrong in detail. Microsoft and Apple had both tried repeatedly to create a practical, popular tablet, failing completely until the first iPad shipped in 2010. Tablets are currently selling at a rate of about 17 million per quarter. Of the 117 million units that IDC predicts will ship this year, only 1 percent run a Microsoft operating system. IDC predicts that the introduction of Windows 8 (Windows RT for tablets) will quadruple that rate. That means Microsoft's market share could surge to 4 percent -- while Apple sits comfortably at 60 percent-plus.
"The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model, and it might not be successful." -- Steve Jobs, in Rolling Stone, Dec. 3, 2003
Apple launched the iTunes music player and the iPod it supported in 2001; it launched the iTunes online music service in 2007. By 2012, iTunes held 64 percent of the music subscription market, equaling 29 percent of all music sales in any medium, generating a projected $8 billion in revenue for Apple.
"Two years from now, spam will be solved." -- Bill Gates, 2004 World Economic Forum
Spam still consistently makes up more than 90 percent of all Internet email, though botnet takedowns during 2011 dropped that number to 71 percent. According to online security firm Incapsula, 51 percent of all Internet traffic now comes from non-humans, once you add up all the spam, traffic from DDoS apps, botnets, content scrapers, search engines, ad servers and network overhead from DNS and other address servers.
"This antitrust thing will blow over." -- Bill Gates, at a meeting of Intel executives, 1995
The "antitrust thing," did blow over. Eventually. It started with a 1991 FTC investigation of whether Microsoft was abusing its monopoly power over operating systems, ended with a settlement and consent decree 1994, reopened a short time later for charges of violating the consent decree, went to trial in 1998, and concluded with a final (negative) judgment in 2002.
In its 2008 annual report, Microsoft wrote that the U.S. Department of Justice and 18 states participating in that "antitrust thing" put constraints on Microsoft's business practices and marketing of its operating systems -- constraints analysts credit with helping to pull Microsoft out of its dominant position and making the computer business more competitive.
"Apple is already dead." -- Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft CTO, 1997
For the undead, Apple is doing well. It owns the tablet market and holds a big chunk of the highly diverse smartphone market. In August, Apple became the most valuable company in history with a market capitalization of more than $620 billion, nipping previous record holder Microsoft, which hit its peak in 1999 and is now worth about $260 billion.
"There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States." -- T. Craven, FCC commissioner, 1961