Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting



Semi-False Prophets…

At one time or another, we have all wished that we could see into the future. On a personal level this may just be intellectual curiosity, but for many businesses it’s a matter of survival. Just ask Kodak and Radio Shack if you don’t believe me. However, even on a personal level it can be important in making career choices and perhaps planning ahead to retirement years.

Given this level of interest, there are many prognosticators who claim that they can answer these questions for us – if only we will buy their books or otherwise pay for their wisdom. And they promise to “prove” to us how prescient they have been with their past predictions. They will tell you that their track record is 80% or better. However, on closer examination we will see that the claimed successes are a very partial result and mostly the result of extrapolations of what already exists.

It did not take any special prognosticating skill to have predicted 10 or more years ago that compute power will continue to increase and what the consequences of that might be. However, how many predictions did you see that told you there would soon be major new companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon?

If anyone could really see into the technology future then would it not make sense for companies such as Kodak, IBM, and Microsoft to take advantage of this knowledge and get into these new businesses before new challengers arrive on the scene? Would it not make sense for a company such as Microsoft to be the first to market with a successful search engine and create a social network? Why let a new start-up come out of seemingly “nowhere” to take a major chunk of business away from an existing large company such as IBM?

The answer of course is that the “prophets of technology future” have no special skills in what new surprises lie ahead. They can take what is already known and try to extrapolate it with some limited success. But they will invariably fail when it comes to uncovering the innovative new developments that catch us all by surprise. Could any of us have imagined how quickly social media would take over? Could we have imagined that in a span of just a few years we would all be addicted to our cell phones to the point where we cannot wait for the plane to land before we turn them on, nor carry on a dinner conversation without checking for messages? Did anyone predict the rapidity with which the concept of “applications” would take hold -- or even that there would be such a phenomenon?

The easy part of predicting is using known technology to extrapolate where it might lead us. I personally have had good success in predicting how display technology will evolve based on what we know about materials and how long it takes from basic discoveries to a marketable product – it’s about 20 years. However, even in the display industry most of us could not foresee that LC technology would take over virtually everything. We all thought that plasma panels would have a place and that CRTs would not go away as quickly as they did.

Looking ahead turns out to be far more complicated than some would have us believe. There is a complex relationship between innovation, consumer behavior, and government regulation. Quite often an initial effort may fail to later become a major success with just a few seemingly minor changes. Consider the evolution of the tablet computer that Microsoft tried and failed at but, not too long after, Apple made into a major success.

We live in a dynamic and mostly unpredictable world. That creates wonderful advantages for those with new an innovative ideas, but similarly creates difficult challenges for existing major companies looking to sustain their successes. The life of every new product or technology follows an S-curve from initial birth, through rapid growth and acceptance, to mature stability followed by an eventual decline. The challenge is to be able to know what this curve will look like and to have something new in the wings to bring to market when maturity is approaching. Some companies such a Kodak never did figure it out. Others such as Microsoft seem to be doing better.

In the display industry, we are doing well with the introduction of ever larger displays, more resolution, and continuing improvements that allow displays to become even more ubiquitous.

Should you have some surprises up your sleeve that you wish to tell me about, or if you wish to respond to these comments, you may reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.


19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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