Bill Gates wrote the book "Business @ the Speed of Thought" in 1999. Think back to 1999, most American households–HORRORS OF ALL HORRORS–still used dial-up Internet access. Streaming was not yet a thing. Amazon was barely a thing. In essence, 1999 is the modern equivalent of the Dark Ages. Man had discovered fire (the Internet), but he didn't quite know what to do with it yet. In the book, Gates made 15 bold predictions that at the time, seemed fairly insane.
However, 16 years later, it seems that if the whole Microsoft thing goes south, Gates could make a few bucks as a psychic. Let's take a look at his predictions.
Prediction #1: Price Comparison Sites
Gates said: "Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries."
And of course, not only can you search for a product on Amazon and see many different vendors offering the product at different prices, but you can also price comparison shop for airfare, car rentals, hotel rooms, and more. Sites like PriceGrabber and NexTag were launched specifically for price comparisons.
Prediction #2: Mobile Devices
Gates said: "People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices."
And of course now we have smartphones, tablets, and smart watches that can do all of this.
Prediction #3: Instant payments and financing online, better healthcare through the web
Gates said: "People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the Internet."
To be fair, PayPal was launched in 1998, but was not yet the behemoth it is today. Today, Venmo and the online branches of brick and mortar banks have joined PayPal in the instant payments arena. You can also borrow money online through sites like Lending Tree. As for health care, the web hasn't changed that much, but there are sites like ZocDoc, for finding a doctor and scheduling an appointment and many hospitals, such as Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles have made their records digitized and available online.
Prediction #4:Personal assistants and the Internet of Things
Gates said: "'Personal companions' will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you're doing."
The world is not quite there with this prediction, though many busy professionals certainly need something like this. Google Now, a smart assistant that runs on mobile devices, is heading in the direction of personal companion. Devices like Nest collect data on your daily routines at home and automatically adjust the house temperature. There are also now sites that will send you coupons based on your past buying habits.
Prediction #5: Online home monitoring
Gates said: "Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home."
Several devices that interact with the Web make this possible nowadays. In fact, Dropcam, which sells home surveillance cameras, sold to Google for $555 million in 2014.
Prediction #6: Social media
Gates said: "Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events."
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Prediction #7: Automated promotional offers
Gates said: "Software that knows when you've booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in."
Expedia, Kayak, and other travel sites offer deals based on past purchases and send emails suggesting hotels and activities based on a flight that you've booked.
Prediction #8: Live sports discussion sites
Gates said: "While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter contests where you vote on who you think will win."
Have you ever checked out Twitter during a sporting event? Of course you have. It's a real time conversation on what is happening in whatever game is being played. You can't avoid it there. Sites like ESPN and CBS Sports also allow people to leave comments in real time and enter contests like fantasy football leagues.
Prediction #9: Smart advertising
Gates said: "Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored to your preferences."
Most online advertising now has this feature. Advertisers can target users based on purchasing patters, click history, and interests. Facebook ads have become downright stalker-ish. If you look at a certain skirt on a website, for instance, ads for that very skirt will follow you from Facebook page to Facebook page for days, taunting you until you break down and spend $59.99.
Prediction #10: Links to sites during live TV
Gates said: "Television broadcast will include links to relevant websites and content that complement what you are watching."
Nearly every live sports game and talent competition like Dancing With the Stars and American Idol now features links to specific sites—both within the broadcast and in commercials. Often, a Twitter feed scrolls across the bottom of the screen while the program is being broadcast.
Prediction #11: Online discussion boards
Gates said: "Residents of cities and countries will be able to have internet-based discussions concerning issues that affect them, such as local politics, city planning, or safety."
The Internet is full of sites, the most obvious of which is Reddit, where people can have discussions.
Prediction #12: Interest-based online sites
Gates said: "Online communities will not be influenced by your location, but rather, your interest."
This actually doesn't seem like such a stretch for a prediction as message boards based on interests had taken off long before 1999. However, today if an interest exists, for sure there is at least one website devoted to covering that interest.
Prediction #13: Project-management software
Gates said: "Project managers looking to put a team together will be able to go online, describe the project, and receive recommendations for available people who would fit their requirements."
The market is now flooded with workflow software in the enterprise space, making it easier than ever to form teams, recruit, and delegate work.
Prediction #14: Online recruiting
Gates said: "Similarly, people looking for work will be able to find employment opportunities online by declaring their interest, needs, and specialized skills."
Sites such as LinkedIn allow recruiters to find talent that suits the position they need to fill with a simple search.
Prediction #15: Business community software
Gates said: "Companies will be able to bid on jobs, whether they are looking for a construction project, a movie production, or an advertising campaign. This will be efficient for both big companies that want to outsource work that they don't usually face, businesses looking for new clients, and corporations that don't have a go-to provider for the said service."
Enterprise software on the market today makes all of this possible. Typically the software is focused on the social aspect of it, so users can start a conversation with other businesses that can lead to bigger projects.