AT&T ‘s vision of the future (circa 1993)

I ran across these 1993 AT&T TV commercials on YouTube. This series of ads was called “You Will”. Maybe you remember them (like I do). Take a look:

According to AT&T (circa 1993), in the future “you will” be able to:

  • Borrow a book from thousands of miles away
  • Cross the country without stopping for directions
  • Send someone a fax from the beach
  • Pay a toll without slowing down
  • Buy concert tickets from a cash machine
  • Tuck your baby in from a phone booth
  • Open doors with the sound of your voice
  • Carry your medical history in your wallet
  • Attend a meeting in your bare feet
  • Watch a movie you wanted to the minute you wanted to
  • Learn special things from far away places

In 2007, I believe that all of these technologies are either available or could be done. However, and correct me if I am wrong, I don’t believe that AT&T brought us any of these ideas. Why is that? Why did AT&T have the vision of the future and yet was unable create any of it?

Here’s my take. First, I believe that no single company (or at least one single brand) could have developed all of these future current technologies. Consumers want brands that stand for something unique and not one company to deliver everything. Today, consumers look to TomTom for GPS navigation systems, Tivo to watch a movie the minute they want to, and TicketMaster for their concert tickets.

So, why isn’t AT&T a leader in any of these technologies? I think Mack Collier from The Viral Garden said it best:

When you think of AT&T, you think of landlines, rotary dials, and the Reagan administration.

In other words, the “future” can not come from an old, tired brand like AT&T. The future can only come from brands that bring to mind innovation, differentiation and pushing the limits (think Apple).

Why do you think AT&T (or any company for that matter) can have a clear vision of the future but not play a part in it?