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Michael Saylor on the Next Great Age of America
Michael Saylor on the Next Great Age of America
Jeanne Jennings • October 25, 2012
We are so thankful to Michael Saylor for sitting down with us last month. We got such a positive response to the first article that we’re back with more insights from Georgetown resident and the Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of MicroStrategy, author of “The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence will Change Everything.”
It was at the beginning of the era of the personal computer, when the world, according to Saylor, “took a hard left.”
“The Latin-Roman alphabet is superior to symbol-based languages, like Japanese and Chinese, for writing software code. Look at a keyboard. How do you create a keyboard for a language like Chinese that has 25,000 characters?”
The PC era gave us Microsoft, Oracle and Intel, then Dell, HP and IBM. When the World Wide Web came about, it was EBay, Amazon, Yahoo! and then Google at the forefront. All American companies, all using English as their primary language, for programming and for business. Today, if you want to become a software programmer, no matter what country you live in, you have to learn English.
“If you speak English you can purchase everything cheaper. If you sell in English, you will sell everything, your product or service, more expensively…The center of gravity of Western civilization is English.”
Saylor sees other factors, beyond software programming, contributing to America’s Newest Great Age. One of them is the formation of the European Union – hear his take on that.
Another is that the mobile wave provides people around the world, both adults and children, with easy access to American culture and ideals.
“We aren’t just exporting American technology. We’re exporting American technology, American values, American products and services, American currency, the American legal system. It’s all becoming a standard in this creeping way.”
Saylor sees the United States as the biggest beneficiary of the formation of the European Union. Click to hear his take (4 minutes)
“Technology doesn’t work at all; technology fails…until it succeeds.”
Much of Saylor’s perspective on the mobile wave is driven by his studies at MIT. In addition to aeronautical engineering, his coursework covered the impact of science and technological advances on society.
All new technologies begin with an idea. There are often fits and starts at the beginning, while the innovator is working to overcome obstacles so that the idea can become reality.
Click here to listen to Saylor’s Take on Technological Innovations in Aviation (4 minutes)
Saylor gave us a quick lesson in this, illustrating the history of aviation from the Wright Brothers to the space shuttle. It’s a fascinating study (hear it here), one which he sees the software industry mirroring.
Not too long after we put a man on the moon, aviation technology advancement slowed considerably. At the same time, computer and software technologies progressed to the point where the general public could begin to use them. As consumer adoption increased, advances have come rapidly – all the way from the desktop computer in the 1970s to Internet access on your smart phone today in 2012.
Regarding Privacy Concerns: “At the end of the day I’m not concerned about the plight of consumer; the consumer is the big beneficiary of the mobile wave.”
Click here to get Saylor’s insight into consumer privacy concerns and how they will be resolved (3 minutes)
If you’ve ever used Google maps on your smart phone, you were probably happy that it knew your current location and could use it as a starting point to give you directions to your destination. There’s a good chance that targeted content or advertising, based on what Facebook or other entities know about your online habits, has led you to products, services or information that you enjoyed.
But there are two sides to this technology. While it can be comforting to track the websites your teenager is visiting and his or her location throughout the course of a Friday night, would you be comfortable with your employer, marketers, the government or other entities knowing what you’re doing online and where you are at each moment of the day?
Many are concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. Some people readily admit that they find this aspect of the mobile wave “scary.”
Saylor acknowledges the concerns, but he sees the benefits of the mobile wave outweighing the potential downsides. He’s a big advocate of transparency, meaning that consumers are told upfront what information is being collected on them and how it will be used. He sees current privacy laws evolving to keep up with the new challenges brought by the mobile wave.
The sub-title of Saylor’s book is “How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything.” So, will it? It’s an engaging read. [We encourage you to pick it up (or download “The Mobile Wave”) and decide for yourself](http://www.microstrategy.com/the-mobile-wave/).
Michael Saylor: Riding the Mobile Wave
Jeanne Jennings • October 15, 2012
“The mobile wave is going to sweep through and obliterate billions of jobs and millions of small businesses and that’s going to be viewed with trepidation by politicians, unions and businessmen, all three, because they’re going to see their world disrupted. But at the same time, it opens up the possibility for three or four billion people in the underclass to get a Ph.D.”
So says Michael Saylor, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of MicroStrategy and author of “The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence will Change Everything,” published earlier this year by Vanguard Press.
Saylor sees the agricultural revolution as a model for the changes the mobile wave will bring about. In 1850, 67 percent of Americans worked on farms. Thanks to vast improvements in farm technology which led to massive and rapid increases in productivity, today less than 2 percent of the US population is employed in agriculture. This allowed 65 percent of the population to shift away from farming, learn new skills and contribute to the economy in other ways.
“For the civilization to move forward we need to generate millions of new skills,” Saylor says. “The secret is education. Right now, we spend $2 trillion a year on education, and we spend it poorly. We teach people the same way we have for 100 years.”
But mobile can change all that. By moving education online, the best professors and teachers can expand the number of students able to learn from them. When textbooks move online and become software, they become “magical.” Students can inexpensively perform experiments online, simulating not only simple things, like boiling water, but things that are impossible now, like playing with a pendulum on Mars.
Even better, the incremental cost per student drops dramatically when learning goes mobile. Saylor predicts that a Ph.D., which can cost $100,000 to attain today, could be only $10,000 in the future. These newly minted minds will have the information and time they need to tackle civilization’s most pressing problems, things like super strains of viruses which have become immune to present day antibiotics. Saylor has launched the Saylor Foundation (www.Saylor.org) to make his vision a reality. Based in Georgetown, it currently offers 13 areas of online college-level study, including biology, economics and mechanical engineering, at no cost to students.
But education is just one area being impacted for the better by the mobile wave.
New technologies will make our identities mobile, and “100 times easier to prove and 100 times more secure,” Saylor says, than current employee badges, credit cards, personal signatures and other credentials, which can be forged. Our mobile identities will have unique identifiers which change every few minutes, but which anyone on a mobile device can use to confirm that you are who you say you are.
Mobile identity technology will make it easier to control access to sensitive areas like schools, where we only want students, parents, teachers and other authorized personnel to enter. It will also make it possible to verify quickly your identity to someone thousands of miles away. This is the direction that MicroStrategy is moving with Usher, its free app which allows users to manage events with Facebook but which will become a virtual wallet for credentials. Saylor predicts that mobile identity technology will be widely used within the next five years.
Speaking of Facebook, Saylor says, “If you don’t use Facebook, my advice to anybody would be to become a Facebook user. It’s time to get on the bandwagon. You can’t really live outside of that stream.”
What’s the next big thing? “The most powerful idea in the world in the year 2012 is the software application network,” said Saylor. YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia are examples of networks that allow people to share information and photos. “So what about a teaching network, a safety network, a payment network? All these things are living in the domain of plastic cards and pencils and pens now. They will become networks. I can’t say which one will commercialize first, but we’re already investing in intelligence networks (MicroStrategy’s Wisdom app) and identity networks (the future of MicroStrategy’s Usher app).”
In Saylor’s book, mobile Internet is the fifth wave of computing, following the mainframe, the mini-computer, the desktop computer and the Internet PC. So what’s the sixth wave? “The point that we cross the man-machine interface and we’re able to receive information and give an instruction without our hands or our voice – a direct neural link,” Saylor says. “At this point, the entire world becomes merged with cyberspace, like the holodeck on Star Trek.”
6 Quick Questions for Michael Saylor:
Current Mobile Phone? Apple iPhone 5
Social Network: Facebook or Google+? Facebook
Number of Friends on Facebook? 4,000
Favorite Low or No-Tech Hobbies? Travel, boating
Stock to Own: Facebook or Google? Both — and Apple and Amazon
Best App Most People Haven’t Yet Heard Of? WhatsApp, a cross-platform mobile messaging app
Michael Saylor: “It’s Kind of a Fluke That I’m Here at All…”
“I come out of a generation of men that grew up loving science fiction. We read Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov and our aspiration was to be an astronaut, go to Mars and build spaceships. And when I was in high school I wanted to be a fighter pilot, be an astronaut, go to Mars and build spaceships.”
After leaving high school, Saylor followed his dream, joining the Air Force and earning a degree in aeronautical engineering from MIT, where he studied spaceship design and learned how to fly. But his plan was derailed in the final semester of his senior year when he was misdiagnosed with a benign heart murmur, disqualifying him from combat air duty.
Shortly after that, Congress cut the defense budget. So, instead of going on active duty in the military as an engineer, he served in the Air Force reserve weekends and summers and went into the civilian world.
Saylor told us this story as he proudly showed us a plaque in his office. It had recently been given to him by Astronaut Greg Johnson, a high school friend who was a pilot, not just once but twice, on the space shuttle Endeavour.
The plaque featured MicroStrategy’s IPO prospectus and pictures of Johnson in space holding it. He had taken it with him on Endeavour’s last flight. So, it had been to the space station and circled the Earth for two weeks.
“He’s what I wanted to be – he flew F-15s, fought in the Gulf War, became a test pilot, became an astronaut, went up on the space shuttle and he’s still with NASA right now. So, that was a different path, and really I would have done it if I could have done it. I’m not saying I would have gotten as far as he did, but that’s what my aspiration was.”
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