Microsoft CEO Nadella joins Ballmer and Gates in making silly predictions

satya nadella
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

A year into his tenure, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has now joined both of his predecessors, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, in achieving the dubious distinction of issuing spectacularly unlikely predictions.

Is doing this kind of thing on some sort of Microsoft executive checklist?

Nadella, as you may have heard last week, was asked by an ABC News interviewer to name “a technology that we rely on today that will not be around a decade from now?”

Nadella’s reply: “Fountain pens.”

The interviewer held up her garden-variety pen and asked, “No more of these?”

“That’s right,” Nadella said.

Granted, he was put on the spot and may have replied differently if given time to reflect, but the pen – known far and wide for being mightier than the sword – is no more likely to be extinct in 10 years than is the human race, unless they have the grave misfortune of bowing out together.

Same goes for the paper on which those pens will write, despite talk of the paperless office now going on 40 years and Ballmer’s prediction back in 2008 that periodicals of all kinds – magazines and newspapers foremost – would cease to be printed on paper within 10 years.

“Here are the premises I have,” Ballmer told the Washington Post. “Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.”

Yes, he still has a few years left and countless print publications have gone the way of the buggy whip since 2008, but no, Ballmer’s prediction isn’t going to happen, either. (The year before Ballmer also predicted the iPhone would flop, but he had plenty of company on that one.)

Which brings us to Gates and what will unquestionably stand as the most wildly off the mark of these misguided prognostications.

"Two years from now, spam will be solved," Gates told the World Economic Forum in 2004.

In fact, spam will probably outlive pens and print publications.

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