Surfing the Mobile Wave

No conference programme is complete without at least one thought leadership talk which gives a sweeping vision-led look at the future. At Amsterdams MicroStrategy World 2012 we got it straight away, in the very first session.

The keynote speech from MicroStrategy CEO and chairman Michael Saylor was based around his book, The Mobile Wave, and what that term actually means – “a paradigm shift that changes the world and improves the lives of everybody,” according to Saylor.

Microstrategy expects there to be a global total of 5bn smartphones by 2015, according to Saylor, and 5bn iPads – notably, not Tablets in general – by 2022. And having pointed out that smartphone users spend an average 77 minutes a day using apps, compared to 12 minutes making calls, it was time for Saylor to start listing the things that mobile technology will make obsolete, “as the things we hold in our hands become software”. That list includes the worlds 2.5m ATMs, games consoles, physical carkeys, and the print publishing industry.

He also focused on the areas mobile will help improve, including medicine, policing, and education – with that last one coming in for special attention. Saylor pointed to the annual $2 trillion spent on education worldwide, and argued that the $1,000 spent on high school textbooks for the average US student could be replaced with a $600 iPad. Its perhaps a slightly shortsighted solution given that it ignores the cost of the eBooks, and the inherent risk of handing a breakable device to a schoolchild, but the point is a good one. 

Even more impressive is the Khan Academy app and site, which teaches a variety of subjects to 4.5m users per month – potentially replacing 20,000 teachers. Im sure theyll all be very pleased to hear that.

The overarching theme of the talk was moving past our nostalgia to fully embrace mobile technology in service of more efficiency, in terms of both money – the $221bn annual cost of identity theft – and time – the 2.5bn hours every day spent queueing, which could potentially be saved with solutions like Tescos app which enables users to scan products in-store and have them delivered to their door.

“At some point the consumer expects an app for everything and if you cant provide it they will go somewhere else,” Saylor said. “I cant imagine a single educated person not keeping up with this technology, rather than falling behind.” 

As Saylor sees it, many of the physical methods we currently rely on are inefficient, and humans are fallible – but software, he reckons, only does what its supposed to. Thats a bit of an optimistic vision, as anyone whos ever used a malfunctioning app will tell you, but its one which speaks to the immense power of the medium.