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The worst tech predictions of 2013 -- and two that hit the mark

Bill Snyder | Jan. 2, 2014
From the social network in business to the 'success' of the Chromebook to the launch of iTV, the pundits got it wrong, wrong, wrong

Here's the truth, according to IDC analyst Rajani Singh, writing in November: "Chromebooks from any vendor except Samsung have not fared particularly well. Even with Samsung's products, they're primarily only having an impact on K-12 education in the U.S. — as a replacement for aging netbooks."

And what's worth crowing about the next "netbook-killer"?

The PC market won't be terrible
Everyone knew that the PC market was in trouble last year. That was an easy call. But hardly anyone on Wall Street or at the big research shops expected it to collapse. Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes, for example, figured that global sales would be off by about 3 percent. By the end of fall, the market had dropped even further, and now IDC predicts that the year-over-year decline will be a bit more than 10 percent, the largest dip in the history of the industry.

One of the most misguided calls related to the PC market was Microsoft's big bet on Windows 8. Sure, it's selling, people have to replace their PCs at some point, but Windows Frankenstein failed to do what earlier Windows upgrades did: Convince people they should by a new PC. Without the boost of a new OS, the market simply tanked as more and more users flocked to ever more powerful tablets.

MOOCs will sweep the campus
"There's an app for that," became a joke a couple of years ago. But an awful lot of people, particular the digerati of Silicon Valley, really believe there's an app to solve any of the world's problems — higher education, for instance. The app to fix it: The MOOC, or massive open online course. Hmm, not so fast.

Despite the unending hype, MOOCs have not taken off. A study of more than 1 million MOOC enrollees, released in December by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, found that on average only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.

Perhaps even more telling, as the New York Times noted, is the failure of the widely publicized MOOC experiment at San Jose State University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, which was supposed to give a boost to underachieving students:

"Despite access to the Udacity mentors, the online students last spring — including many from a charter high school in Oakland — did worse than those who took the classes on campus. In the algebra class, fewer than a quarter of the students — and only 12 percent of the high school students — earned a passing grade."

Social networking will conquer the enterprise
If marketers ran the enterprise, there'd be no doubt that social networking would be king. But they don't, and despite the dazzling predictions and starry-eyed hype, business has not widely adopted social networking with the obvious exception of its use as a marketing tool.


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