In the days before Steve Jobs and the Apple crew paraded the iPad around the stage in San Francisco, I wrote a couple of items about the (then named) Apple iSlate / iTablet device. In one, I listed the 6 things I wanted to see in an Apple Tablet, the other, more relevant to this post, took a look at the art and game of predicting Apple Tablet technology announcements.
In the latter post, the goal was to select, based on your understanding of the technology and Apple’s business practices, the statements that were going to be True or False on Tablet-day. I did OK, scoring 24⁄37 (65%). Which means I got 1 in 3 wrong, basically. I could have likely guessed on all and had a similar score.
But the title of this post says that Predicting tech announcements is easy, which is kinda true, I guess, if you have:
- Apple fans discussing the latest rumor incessantly
- An interest in the technology
- Good tools to analyze information
Let’s take these in reverse order.
Consider this Google Trends chart of four phrases: Apple Tablet, Apple Slate, Apple Notepad and Apple Netbook.
News media didn’t start discussing Apple Tablet until Q4 2007, but Google started tracking for Apple Tablet as early as Q2 2005, almost three years later. Obviously there was some interest in a tablet device from Apple.
Once Netbooks burst on to the scene, then, of course, speculation around an Apple netbook began to trend.
Google Trends is one to look back over time, but your favourite RSS reader, Twitter trends page, and Google Alerts can keep you on top of news as they develop.
An interest in the tech is essential.
Otherwise you may not realize the value of a subtle change in interface design, hardware platform, or some other nuance that could make or break the product.
And a curiosity that’s grounded in tech knowledge will let you ask relevant questions. For example, why wasn’t there an SD slot in the iPad? Seriously, I want to know. In my mind, that’s a dealbreaker for the first generation iPad — I know, I can buy an adapter to read SD cards, but really, why should I when it could have been designed in from the start.
Which leads me into the first point,
Apple’s community of evangelists and fans has been around almost since the two Steves stirred up trouble in their garage. The reason is simple, the tech works and is designed well. Sure, there are bugs and failures, but the community has, for the most part, been willing to forgive those because the subsequent products have been game-changers.
Where this goes as far as tech predictions is simple; listen to the fanboys — odds are they know more about the tech than you do, and have insights and experience with the products that only comes from years of living and breathing the tech.
Putting it all together, and still getting it wrong
Yes, even with everything going for you, you’ll still strike out a lot. Simply because companies like Apple keep their developers and development work super-secret — these are trade secrets that, if learned, can influence fortunes of others unfairly.
So you’ll miss some things. I, for example, didn’t think that Steve would start the event by unveiling the product. I thought there’s be a few products, and then one of his famous “oh, and one more thing…” lead-ins to the big reveal. I also didn’t think that iPad was a serious contender for the product name; it just didn’t have the cache of other Apple names. So move over Meatloaf — 2 outta 3 ain’t bad.
But then again, some people are taking their disappointment quite hard…