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TrendReport Track Record for Predictions for 2003

We did pretty well with the trends we predicted for 2003:

  • Economy

    • We were right that SEC Chairman William H. Donaldson would have a long honeymoon period with the media and investors as the anti-Harvey Pitt. But he did not move as fast as we expected on all fronts to reassure investors.
    • We were too optimistic that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, would find that many points in Sarbanes-Oxley put an unfair and oppressive burden on small public companies and on foreign-based U.S. listed companies – for whom the Act goes against local custom and laws. The bill moves ahead without a much-needed overhaul.
    • While there were a few big IT acquisitions, there wasn't a true "wave" of mergers. Though we were not the only ones to expect a lot of mergers; Business 2.0's August 2003 cover story was "Mergers are Back – With a Vengence? Who's Next?...And how to benefit from the feeding frenzy." So at least we're in good company.
    • Many U.S. companies did continue to pare their payroll, as productivity increases continued. But Congress did not extend unemployment benefits, as we thought it might, to help stimulate the economy.
    • And we were flat-out wrong when we predicted that the "flat-tax" and other proposals for reforming the federal tax codes would emerge as major issue for the 2004 Presidential campaign.

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    2. War

    • We were right that weapons inspection in Iraq would prove inconclusive. We were wrong that the Bush administration would not invade Iraq.
    • We were right that Osama Bin Laden, still on the run, would continue to appear on al-Jazeera, via audio tape, several times in 2003 – but without as much debate as to the authenticity of the tape as was the case in 2001.
    • Unfortunately, Antiglobalization (i.e., Anti-American) sentiments increased around the globe in 2003, just as predicted. There were protests not just in unfriendly parts of the world, but in partly US-aligned and even in closely aligned countries (U.K.). However, the protests did not seem to have much impact on well known multinational U.S.-based companies, such as Starbucks.
    • North Korea did continue its nuclear saber rattling, but seemed more like a back-burner issue.

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    3. Security

    • Congress did not pass sweeping legislation aimed at protecting personal privacy. It did pass anti-spam legislation known as CAN-Spam, which goes into effect in 2004.
    • The Transportation Security Administration missed deadlines, but did not score many positive marks. Due to budgetary issues, it fired and then had to rehire a number of air marshalls and it fired screeners at airports around the country.
    • Cyber Security was important, but we did not see cyber attacks on government networks.
    • Congress did not debate new "right to (digital) privacy" legislation.

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    4. Healthcare

    • Health insurance and Social Security moved up on the legislative agenda. And we were right that the Bush administration would advance some concrete proposals to solve the nation's health care dilemma. But we did not predict the sweeping Medicare bill Congress passed late in 2003.

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    5. Telecom

    • The FCC did overturn the Telecommunications Act of 1996. But Congress surprised us by setting out to repeal or modify the new rules.
    • Consolidation in the wireless sector did not occur. Yet. T-Mobile continued to be the focus of rumors that it will be acquired (most likely by AT&T).
    • Short Messaging Service (SMS), which is a big cellphone application in Asia and Europe did not take off in the US. And neither did mobile commerce (m-Commerce). But camera-enabled phones took off.

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    6. Travel & Transportation

    • The travel industry, particularly airlines, was hit hard by the economic slump. But carriers did not have to reassure passengers that their flights would continue as scheduled.
    • Despite bouts of the Norwalk virus in 2002 affecting several ships across several cruise operators, cruise lines did not have to reassure passengers their ships were clean.
    • Freight companies continued to delay developing new procedures to safeguard the more than 10 percent of freight currently screened.

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    7. Media & Entertainment

    • The lines between news, entertainment and advertising did get even fuzzier, as was the case between and within corporate entities.
    • The time between major news event and network made-for-TV movie about the event did shrink but not to 3-4 weeks.
    • We were wrong in predicting that IT trade publications would become Internet-only publications. But we were right about the significant uptick in Webinars.
    • Conservative pundits, both on cable and radio, continued as we predicted to win the ratings game against their liberal opponents.
    • Copyright laws and file-sharing were major issues for global media players, with the RIAA unleashing highly publicized suits against illegal file-sharers.
    • We were extremely wrong in predicting the end of reality programming. While there were some major duds, Reality TV is now part of the network schedule.
    • And we were mostly right that boy bands (there was one exception) and their single-girl equivalents would stop selling as many records as they attempt new "serious" music in a quixotic attempt at credibility.

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    8. Technology

    • Communications technologies did continue to converge, but other than a few cellphones models, email and voice mail did not get linked.
    • Some predicted consumer trends for 2003:
      • Home theaters, featuring flat-panel screens and combinations of DVD, Internet (MP3), PVR (personal video recorders like TiVo) and cable TV service were popular. Prices for DVD players dropped significantly to the point that Wal-Mart sold some at Christmas for $29.
      • Smart phones that combine voice, text messaging, and PDA-like screens and applications continued to sell – but the big story in cellphones was built-in cameras.
      • At the very end of 2003, there were more stories about personal security products, including GPS-based location monitoring devices to be worn by adults as well as by children.
    • Wi-Fi did take off in 2003, but no one did make money on it. And no one knows yet how they will make money on offering the service.

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    9. Environment

    • The House of Representatives did not debate "Anti-SUV" legislation concerning auto safety and fuel-consumption. Anti-SUV protests peaked early in 2003.
    • Although environmental organizations did gain ground in California, their success did not gain ground at the state level.
    • The Bush administration did not re-think its environmental policies, although it did replace Christy Todd Whitman as head of the EPA.

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    10. Education & Nonprofit

    • Most of the media coverage seemed to be about whether the benefits (in terms of salary) in a down economy of an MBA degree out-weighed the costs (tuition plus opportunity costs). Business Week and other publications that could be seen as having an interest in pumping out MBAs (as subscribers, as a way to continue to secure ads from B-schools) ultimately came out in favor of getting an MBA.
    • Nonprofit institutions had to become more aggressive in marketing their successes and in being accountable for failures to an increasingly demanding group of givers. This was true at the million-dollar-level of benefactors, but we did not see any indication accountability affected the middle classes, too.

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    11. Food: Food fight!

    • The battle of carbs vs. non-carbs did continue. Research seemed to indicate that Dr. Atkins was right; unfortunately, he died (after slipping on the ice) before the results were published.
    • Obesity continued to be an important health issue. And we were right that the courts would dismiss suits against McDonald's, Burger King and other fast food chains.
    • Consumers did continue to want comfort foods and super-size portions.

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