Microsoft Concept Videos from 2000 Correctly Predicted All the Tech Trends Microsoft Went On to Miss

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 13 2013 2:03 PM

Microsoft Concept Videos from 2000 Correctly Predicted All the Tech Trends Microsoft Went On to Miss

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Outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Photo by OLIVER LANG/AFP/Getty Images

At the dawn of the 21st century, Microsoft stood astride the tech world, its software the basis for just about everything that people did on their computers. But the past 13 years have not been kind to the company’s fortunes. Google, an infant at the time, went on to conquer Internet browsing and search. Facebook, launched five years later, became king of social networking. Amazon has tightened its grip on online retail and taken the lead in cloud computing. Apple and Google rule mobile software. The list goes on.

You might assume that Microsoft failed to capitalize on these trends because it lacked the vision to anticipate them. But, as a series of circa-2000 video clips unearthed by Bloomberg reveals, you’d be wrong. In fact, Microsoft foresaw the 21st century’s big tech trends with almost uncanny accuracy.

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In a series of circa-2000 concept videos about the future of computing, the company anticipated ubiquitous smartphones, tablets, social networks, cloud-based collaboration, voice-assistant software, and more. As you watch, you might well find yourself saying things like, “hey look, iPads!”—and then recalling that tablets were actually pioneered by Microsoft way back in 2001. They just didn’t catch on until Apple reimagined them eight years later.

Bloomberg has helpfully spliced some of the key scenes into a single five-minute video, but you can watch two of the full-length originals below. Unless you’re Steve Ballmer, in which case you might wish never to be reminded of them again.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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