Business Survival When Software Becomes Vapor

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

– Arthur C. Clarke

I’ve always loved that quote from one of my favorite science fiction authors, Arthur C. Clarke.  In fact, I loved it so much that I put it on the back cover of our prospectus when my company, MicroStrategy, Inc., became public in 1998.  Of course, magic then was different than magic now.  In 1998, if you asked me where I was and I responded by rattling off my latitude and longitude perfectly, you would think “wow, that’s a magical person.”  Now you would just say “oh, that’s a person with an iPhone.”

The magic we see today, as the calendar winds down on 2012, is software moving from a solid form to a vapor form. With desktop computers, software exists in a solid form – one must go to a stationary desk to use it. With laptops, software transforms to a liquid form – one could use it along the Wi-Fi waterways. With mobile technology, software surrounds us as a vapor form – one can use it anywhere.

When you create a piece of software now, and you put it on a mobile phone, it is an airborne virus. Think about how powerful an airborne virus is. It’s an epidemic in the making. And we’re seeing it spread throughout every major industry.

The question if you are in business today is this: how could I take my product or service, turn it into a piece of software that runs on a mobile device, and make it an airborne virus? Every company is going to want to plant their software on their customersRecently I saw an ad in The Wall Street Journal.  It said something like, “Connect with us anytime, anywhere, from any device.”  By the way, I put similar language on the back cover of that 1998 MicroStrategy prospectus. It took a long time before we started to see customers agree with us, but now they are.

If you’re in today’s travel business, for instance, you’re going to want to put your travel-enabling software onto every mobile device. And it’s not just, “I want to put my travel software on the mobile device.”  It’s, “I want to put it on the home screen.” So the fight for screen real estate on a smart phone is incredibly important.

Some companies will get it and some companies won’t. The single most valuable piece of real estate is going to be those 20 icons in your pocket on the home screen of your smart phone. And you – or the company you work for – will want to be one of those 20 icons or as near to those top 20 as possible.

This is business survival. Everything is moving to mobile devices. Software is becoming vapor.