WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

A Window on the Future

A true visionary, an island-dwelling oracle or just a lucky guesser? Mark Anderson has the ear of the technoscenti.
By Stuart Glascock |   October 2009   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Photograph by Hayley Young
Mark Anderson, a marine biologist by training, prognosticates trends in technology from his office-redoubt in the San Juan Islands.

Walk into the San Juan Island offices of Mark Anderson's Strategic News Service (SNS) and you're confronted with a panoramic view of Haro Strait, with Vancouver Island across the water. The scenic location fits one of the technology industry's favorite prognosticators.

Anderson's predictions and perspectives-which tech titans around the globe pay handsomely for-can be as crystal clear as his view.

Check out, for instance, his forecast for two Puget Sound giants: Boeing and Microsoft. The aircraft manufacturer is "dead-dead," he says. "Deader than they think. "I don't think Boeing understands Boeing's own future," Anderson says. "Boeing's future in Seattle is grimmer than Boeing's future in general. At a time when everyone is giddy over the Dreamliner, I take a bigger look. China, your No. 1 customer, has just turned into your No. 1 competitor. They've canceled orders and the internal edict from the Communist Party is 'Don't buy anymore outside guys' stuff.' That's horrible news. Russia is trying to build a whole new airframe company and in Europe, billions more in subsidies for your chief competitor."

He adds: "Don't rely on Boeing. If you're a Seattle Chamber of Commerce person, don't turn to Boeing; they aren't going to help you out."

Anderson does, however, expect great things from the next Microsoft operating system, due out this fall.

"Windows 7 will be the best-selling Microsoft product of all time," he predicts. "And Q4 will be much bigger than people think. That's a real driver of commerce for all."

Regional growth will come from wireless, biotech and the city's "retail DNA" of Nordstrom, Amazon.com, Blue Nile and others. Oh, and better civic leadership wouldn't hurt. Local leaders tend to be inoffensive and ineffective, he says. Leaders who believe in "less talk, more action," he says, include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former Maine Gov. Angus King.

Now consider the source, especially given Anderson's celebrated prescience. Since 1995, industry leaders and investors have forked over $595 to $895 a year for his weekly SNS newsletter with his predictions on the computer and telecommunications industries. A blue-chip roster of tech heavyweights, including Bill Gates, Mark Hurd, Michael Dell and venture capitalist John Doerr, are subscribers.

To extend the impact and influence of his newsletters, Anderson also organizes small conferences in southern California for the technology intelligentsia. Dubbed FiRe, for "Future in Review," the get-togethers attract an exclusive clientele, with attendance capped at 200,