Editor’s note: Surf’s up — Michael Saylor rides ‘The Mobile Wave’

August 19, 2012

I was thumbing through a new book last week by Michael J. Saylor, the co-founder of MicroStrategy, when I came across this discussion of innovation:

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that a new technology is very similar to its predecessors. A new technology is often perceived as the linear extension of the previous one, and this leads us to believe the new technology will fill the same roles — just a little faster or a little smaller or a little lighter.”

Except sometimes an iteration proves to be much more: It turns out to be truly disruptive.

In my own experience, I remember trying to explain how my PalmPilot was so much more than an address book, how my iPod was superior to a Walkman, how my TiVo could do so much more than a VCR.

Just try it and you’ll see, I urged.

Saylor likens such breakthroughs to a wave. Understand it, and you can ride it. Refuse, and you will be swallowed.

His book, “The Mobile Wave,” attempts to make sense of new tidal force building right now.

“What amplifies the transformational power ahead is the confluence of two major technological currents today: the universal access to mobile computing and the pervasive use of social networks.”

IPhones and Facebook, tablets and Twitter, one feeds the other.

“It’s a virtuous cycle that magnifies the impact of both waves,” allowing everyone to know more in any setting.

Saylor has bet big on a mobile future, handing employees iPads and pushing his Tysons Corner company to turn its analytical software into apps and mobile friendly products. He details how big industries as diverse as entertainment, finance, medicine, education and anything based on paper are already feeling the effects, even if the business models are still in flux.

Saylor rode earlier tech waves up, and down. If he says a new wave is rising, it can’t hurt to pull out the surfboard and get in the water.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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