2019 Technology Predictions Gone Awry (and what we can learn from them)

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2021-09-17T18:24:53.146Z

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Each year without fail, the tech industry’s boldest and brightest make predictions about the coming year. And each year without fail, many of these predictions spectacularly flop.

Whether it’s economical, cultural, or technological, it’s interesting to look back at the top flops and ask why. Why hasn’t VR taken off? Why did Uber’s IPO disappoint?

Here are some of our favorite 2019 predictions that didn’t pan out, plus what we can learn from them.

Foldable Phones Will Be All the Rage

Foldable phones were highly anticipated throughout 2018 and the beginning of 2019, but when they were finally announced, there was a smattering of applause followed by mixed reviews. Then everyone carried on with their iPhone.

Guess foldable phones were not the rage.

Why this prediction didn’t pan out: Did users ever want this? The lauded benefit was a huge screen with the ability to fit into your pocket. But current smartphones already feature big screens that fit in your pocket. On top of the lackluster features, the Galaxy Fold was priced at a whopping $1,980. That’s more than a 27” 3.0GHz iMac.

Ouch.

What we can learn: Innovation for the sake of innovation (or in this case, a full regression) isn’t a smart investment. Listen to your users and find out what they want. Whether you’re creating new hardware or software, make sure your features are benefiting your end user.

The Tech Industry Gets Regulated

Many of the tech industry’s tops influencers predicted regulatory initiatives to quell the world of corporate technology. Things like privacy and security continue to be top concerns.

Surprise, nothing substantial happened in 2019.

Compare this scenario with a product like Juul. In 2019, Juul’s e-cigarettes were linked to a handful of lung-related illnesses and deaths and within weeks, there was a plan to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

Why this prediction didn’t pan out: There are a few reasons, but some may stem from the fact that Congress simply doesn’t understand technology enough to make effective legislation. Plus some politicians are benefitting from loose regulations, making them unlikely to fight for change.

What we can learn: Tech is moving so quickly that it’s difficult to regulate. Plus, so many of our representatives simply don’t understand technology.

2019 Will Be the Golden Age of Tech Unicorn IPOs

If you followed IPOs or the general news cycle this year, you probably noticed a lot of tech unicorn’s poor debuts.

To summarize 2019, Slack, Uber, and Lyft bombed. Other tech companies like Peloton, Crowdstrike, and Zoom grossly underperformed. And none of these come close to the absolute mess that WeWork was (and still is).

Why this prediction didn’t pan out: Each of these companies had distinct problems, but they all shared at least one common theme: their initial valuations were inflated.

These companies hyper-focused on growth and revenue, disregarding profit along the way. The blame falls on several groups of people, including internal leadership.

What we can learn: Growth is great. However, it’s not the only metric that matters. Sustainable growth, revenue, and profit all matter if a technology company is going to survive and thrive in this decade.

Retail Stores Will Be Killed Off by Amazon & eComm

The great retail apocalypse has been predicted for years. And while many of these predictions have come true, there are many retailers thriving in the eComm era.

For instance, Target found massive success in 1-day delivery (cutting costs up to 90%) because of its retail locations strategically placed around the US.

Why this prediction didn’t pan out: The world of retail is complicated. Yes, changing buyer habits have had a massive impact on retail stores, but some of these closures can be chocked up to poor business decisions. Brands like Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, and JC Penny have issues far beyond online shopping habits.

What we can learn: Innovation and service win out at the end of the day, whether it’s online or in retail stores.

Amazon’s HQ2 Will Transform A City

Almost one year ago, Amazon announced plans to open its anticipated second headquarters in Queens, NY.

Despite years of mid-tier cities clamoring for the opportunity, Amazon chose one of the largest, most expensive cities in the world. To no surprise, people were outraged and Queen’s residents rallied against Amazon. Faced with the enormous backlash, Amazon canceled its New York City plans.

Why this prediction didn’t pan out: Amazon’s HQ2 was predicted as an economic revitalization for any of America’s noncoastal cities. Everyone, including us, predicted it would land in Kansas City, Memphis, Cincinnati, or another small city. These predictions assumed that Amazon would “do the right thing” in a time of income inequality and affordable housing crises.

What we can learn: Businesses have a responsibility to their communities. When we ignore the livelihood of our employees, neighbors, and community as a whole, we discount what made us successful in the first place.

As you read and create 2020 predictions over the next few weeks, we challenge you to analyze beyond idealistic trends. When you look at technology through the lens of your users, you might be surprised at what does (and doesn’t) come to fruition next year.