Michael Saylor is a full-blown local legend. As chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy, a McLean-based high-tech firm that specializes in mining data from their databases for businesses and other organizations, he’s ridden the wave of the Internet revolution. His important clients reportedly include Facebook. He has a reputation as an extravagant playboy, but with his first book, The Mobile Wave, one can’t help but feel the glamour is a cover for a deeply serious man with deeply serious thoughts. In fact, he calls himself a “science historian,” a self-view backed up with degrees from MIT: one in aeronautic and astronautic engineering, the other in science, technology, and society. Once upon a time he wanted to be a fighter pilot.
In The Mobile Wave his vision is clear—we face a future in which paper, devices such as phones, credit cards and cash, entertainment venues, doctor’s office visits, and even the classroom will be obsolete, or nearly so. He wants everyone on the bandwagon, from toddlers to grandparents.
Right up front he says, “I’ve written The Mobile Wave with the kind of appreciation for today’s formidable technological currents that a veteran sea captain might have for the Deep Blue and the rogue waves that can suddenly appear in its midst. Understand the wave, and you can ride it. Refuse to adjust, and you will be swallowed.”
He’s had his brushes with being nearly swallowed—ask him about the late 1990s and 2000—but no one has ever denied his status as a tech visionary, and today he’s a certified billionaire. His vision, as laid out in his book: “The transformational power ahead is the confluence of two major technological currents: the universal access to mobile computing and the pervasive use of social networks.” He also states that soon 5 billion people will have app phones, essentially carrying “a computer in their pockets.” He calls it “disruption ahead.”
Below, we take five main points from the book and paraphrase them for you:
• THE DESTRUCTION OF PAPER
Paper has been the most common medium on which to communicate information. But the mobile screen is magic paper. It can show any page and blend text with multimedia seamlessly. It’s searchable, sendable, and zoom-able. “Why buy a physical book when you can hold the entire Library of Congress in your hand?”
• INSTANT ENTERTAINMENT
Other containers, such as DVD cases and film stock, have held movies, television shows, video games, and photos. You have to accommodate their restrictions, to travel to where they were made available, to watch them according to a broadcaster’s schedule. On the mobile screen you can watch what you want, where you want, when you want.
• THE INTELLIGENT WALLET
Money, credit, and loyalty programs will all become software on your phone, taking on myriad new shapes enabled by the software. You will be able to give digital cash to your daughter but limit the time window in which she can spend it. Digital cash knows who owns it and who should have it, and can alert police if either of those is suspect. Credit fraud could drop so sharply that companies could justify giving every patron a mobile device for free with the money saved.
• WORLDWIDE AVAILABILITY OF MEDICAL CARE
Genuine globalization will occur when it is possible to hire a doctor in Bangalore to examine us through our mobile screen for $10. The physician will check our temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, and conduct an EKG through med sensors to our phones or at a medical kiosk. Mobile technology will monitor populations for outbreaks of disease.
• UNIVERSAL EDUCATION
Mobile technology can bring the nation’s best teachers and top experts into every classroom and improve the quality of education while freeing up budgets. Skilled engineers can be trained for the cost of a few hundred dollars a year instead of tens of thousands. In developing nations, where approximately one-fourth of children never finish primary school and one billion people remain illiterate, mobile computing will spread education where it hasn’t gone before.