MicroStrategy’s vision: No cash, no queues, no teachers

MicroStrategy founder and CEO Michael Saylor has an interesting vision of the future.

Why employ thousands of teachers to teach kids in classrooms the world over when they can be taught via iPads at a fraction of the cost? Why spend billions of dollars a year maintaining libraries across the US when books can be accessed via iPads? Why bother with ATMs, or indeed cash, when payments can be made via mobile devices?

That was the utopia set out by Saylor at the business intelligence company’s conference in Amsterdam.

Some facts and figures he presents demonstrate the seemingly inexorable shift to mobile computing. He expects there will be five billion smartphones in operation by 2015 and the same number of tablets – made up mostly of iPads – by 2022. He also pointed out that smartphone users spend an average of just 12 minutes a day making calls, compared to 77 minutes using apps.

As we shift towards a mobile future ,the software that runs these apps will replace manual functions in a number of industries, Saylor predicts.

For example he highlighted the $2 trillion spent on education around the world as wasted money. "Why spend over $1,000 on text books when an iPad costs $600?" he added. That idea however ignores the cost of buying digital text books.

A good example of the power mobility can deliver is the Khan Academy, a free online teaching portal that attracts 4.5 million visitors per month. Saylor didn’t point out what would happen to the thousands of teachers and other people connected with the education industry if tools such as that become ubiquitous.

Publishing is another industry that will benefit, with the inefficiencies of the printing process replaced by a straight-to-digital strategy. Car keys, cash and queues will also be replaced by much more efficient mobile apps.

Saylor said the key to all this is the software that will remove the "inefficiencies" that humans introduce to the industries he earmarked as benefiting most from the shift to mobile. Software will never be depressed because of relationship trouble, he said. Software will, "simply always do what it’s supposed to," Saylor claims.

That last comment in particular is difficult to understand, as NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank customers will no doubt testify to.

It certainly sounds like a good idea but it is likely to be a very long time before Saylor’s vision becomes reality.

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