“Games, toys, music, books, and even nannies are being transformed into software, and this new device will become the universal container for all of them.”
Which device is author Michael J. Saylor referring to? Take a guess.
Mobile technology is ubiquitous: Seventy percent of the world has a cellphone and most of these billions of consumers will trade up eventually to “app-phones.” In “The Mobile Wave,” Saylor, CEO of software firm MicroStrategy, describes five “disruptive” computer waves:
- Mainframes in the 1940s
- The minicomputer in 1965
- Desktops in 1975
- The Internet in 1996
- The “mobile wave”
The mobile wave represents not just tinier versions of present technology, but an economic game changer. The lithium-ion battery and flash memory made the wave possible by enabling the invention of the smartphone, which in turn transformed cell phones into hand-held computers.
Saylor claims that the fusion of mobile computing with social networks will transform half the world’s GDP. And create world peace and end illness. That last part’s not serious, but Saylor’s predictions are sweeping and utopian.
If this book is right, we’ll soon be happily retiring our desktop computers, printers, currency, paper, credit cards, bookshelves and file cabinets.
First, mobile devices have these advantages over desktop and laptop computers:
- They are cheaper and turn on instantly.
- Batteries last longer, improving portability
- Apps are inexpensive and simple to buy and use
- GPS provides real-time intelligence about your location
- A touchscreen, multi-touch interface provides a user experience that’s superior to a mouse and keyboard
Businesses will benefit by developing customized apps, eliminating retail, distribution and service functions and giving manufacturers direct access to consumers.
The transformation will make your dollars, coins and keys unnecessary, turn your iPhone into an ATM, make credit card fraud nearly impossible, bring medicine and education to remote areas, and allow what Saylor calls “information energy,” the fuel driving people’s decision-making, to connect the world like never before. (New York Times columnist Tom Friedman could get 10 columns out of Saylor, if he already hasn’t).
His myriad predictions, many of which are not new, include:
The Arrival Of The Long-Awaited Paperless Office
With ink that’s more expensive than blood, desktop printers will die off. Christmas cards are going digital, with only one in five Americans sending paper cards in 2011. This is good news for the planet, because paper pollutes. Smart maps will replace paper maps and the tablet may replace the e-reader. Libraries will be digitized. A bright spot for publishing is that niche magazines will thrive online as they grow cheaper to produce.
Cheap, Shared Entertainment On Demand
Saylor considers the following:
- Games are more inexpensive to develop than ever, and gaming consoles are unnecessary.
- Apps make gaming faster and more convenient.
- The DVD is dying as Netflix and other video-on-demand services stream movies to your devices.
- Half of the American population has DVR and many watch television and movies on mobile devices.
This changing landscape makes watching television a more social act, as people are online, instant messaging and texting while watching. Shows such as “Lost” have online communities that debate plot twists and dissect characters.
Wireless Devices That Can Swap Information Within A Short Signal Range
This’ll make barcodes and Bluetooth obsolete. Biometric technologies such as fingerprint and retinal scanning and voice recognition will replace cumbersome and insecure password security systems (Personally, I can’t wait for this!) Keycards and mobile IDs will replace hotel and car keys, eliminating time consuming check-in and out processes. Digital currency will kill credit cards and physical currency and be trackable. Bank branches will close, and the primacy of banks may be threatened by, for instance, Apple, which already has customer information through iTunes. Identity theft and pickpocketing would become nearly impossible.
Social Networks That Help Oust Dictators
In less than a decade, Facebook has become the dominant social network in the U.S. and Europe. In 2011, 16 percent of time online was spent on Facebook. The density of social networks, enabled by mobile devices, creates “a collective intelligence with real-time global awareness.” In other words, bad leaders can’t hide their misdeeds when the world is watching.
Tablets That Will Revolutionize Medical Practice
Mobile will enable electronic medical records and bring medical specialists to remote areas and developing countries. Surgeons will operate remotely with robots. Mobile reminders for patients with chronic illnesses will increase compliance, and thus, reduce costs. (Ten percent of chronically ill patients, many of whose doctor visits can be avoided, spend 70 percent of the American healthcare dollar). Tablets help record keeping because a professional need only photograph a rash rather than describe it.
Better Education Through Online Learning
Online learning hasn’t exactly been a roaring success, Saylor admits. But he’s optimistic that efficiencies created by online textbooks and utilizing stellar and in-demand teachers (eg Chinese language, science) for distance learning will improve educational outcomes and access. We’ll need fewer classroom teachers, but still need teachers to tutor, guide and proctor students.
Savings On Expensive Infrastructure
Developing countries can go straight to wireless, enhancing their literacy, health care outcomes, and economies (providing widespread credit access) and also checking rampant government corruption.
Except for a short digression on privacy in the final chapter, Saylor sidesteps the question of whether each change is positive, but for that he’d need another book. (Try Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock or Program or Be Programmed) Technology rolls on inexorably faster than societies can adapt, or bioethicists wouldn’t exist. Saylor claims the lower-skilled service jobs killed by technology will simply become more specialized and require greater training. But because education becomes more accessible when it doesn’t require as much paper and classrooms, he says that’s not a problem.
What was the “universal container” replacing nannies and books? You guessed it–the Apple iPad.
Did you agree or disagree with the ideas and predictions put forth in “The Mobile Wave”? Please comment below. I’m interested to hear what you think.