“Time is our most precious commodity, and there are conveniences that wealth brings to essentially get you more time. —retired Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, explaining why he commutes via private jet from his Seattle home to watch games of the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball team he bought last year for $2 billion. ”
A Prediction About Predictions: Many Will Prove Wrong
Virtually none of the growth in the general aviation field in the next decade will happen in the U.S. A certain business jet company is bound to go under or be acquired. A forthcoming aircraft model will be a flop.
I hear predictions like these all the time, along with a variety of much more specific–and sometimes even much more optimistic–industry forecasts. Rarely a week goes by when I don’t receive a report outlining how quickly the corporate aviation field will rebound, how many business jets will be sold over the next few years or what percent of the market very light jets will ultimately represent. Nearly all these forecasts arrive cloaked in plausible-sounding arguments, but that’s the trouble with predictions: they often make perfect sense—until they don’t.
The fast-moving technology field offers some of the best examples of how time can render logical-seeming prognostications entirely obsolete. I recently chuckled my way through a 2006 article in which PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak explained in detail why Apple could make a “phenomenal turnaround” by abandoning its operating system and installing Windows in the Macs it sells. But I got an even bigger laugh from his 2007 column about the then-unreleased iPhone. According to Dvorak’s piece, cellphones “go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within three months. There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive.”
Dvorak’s advice? “If it’s smart, [Apple] will call the iPhone a ‘reference design’ and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else’s marketing budget. Then it can wash its hands of any marketplace failures. It should do that immediately, before it’s too late. Samsung Electronics might be a candidate. Otherwise I’d advise you to cover your eyes. You’re not going to like what you’ll see.”
Think of Dvorak’s predictions next time somebody tells you what’s in store for the business jet field. Forecasts can be interesting to read and even useful. But they can also be utterly wrong. And now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I hear my iPhone ringing.