Category Archives: Technology Trends

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mobile Everyday

Black Friday has come and gone. And what images did we see on the news? We saw mobs of people flooding stores. We saw people getting trampled. We saw battles for the last toy on the shelf. We saw lines, lines, and more lines. We saw exasperated mall workers who have been working since 3am.

And amid all this chaos, we miss the real story. The real story this year is mobile shopping. PayPal saw a 190% increase in mobile device transactions from this time last year. By the end of 2012, global mobile shopping will reach $254 billion, and as customers begin to trust mobile transactions, mobile shopping is predicted to reach $730 billion in the next 5 years.

Retailers who don’t make the transition to mobile offerings will lose today, and those who don’t leverage the mobile wave as a whole will lose tomorrow. Yes, as a retailer, you must create a mobile billing system, a mobile catalog, a social-mobile application that allows for gifting and viral couponing and sharing and everything else social. But that is only the first step. That is business survival now. Making your business mobile is the short-term call to action. The fact that brick-and-mortar stores were hijacked by Amazon is old news; these stores will largely die. An Interactive Advertising Bureau study recently reported that 53% of consumers who have stopped to make an in-store purchase have done so as a result of browsing on their mobile phones while in the store. Once again, old news.

The big picture here is the amount of data being generated from the Mobile Wave. Look at the numbers. There are 1.1 billion global mobile subscribers; worldwide mobile transactions will surpass $171.5 billion this year; 30% of all time spent on mobile devices is on social networking applications, and there are 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every month. We should all benefit from this exponential growth of data.

At my company, we are aiming to leverage today’s mobile, social, cloud, and big data trends. I think every customer database on Earth is now obsolete. People just don’t know it yet. If the people that operate your customer relationship management  (CRM) system don’t know it’s obsolete, then they’re either stubborn or out of touch.

People have been collecting customer comment cards for 30 years. They’re tracking in-store behavior. For corporate executives, your customer view is largely limited to when they’re in your store, or using your service, or in your bank. You don’t know anything about them outside of those experiences. Yet you can now gather ten to a hundred times as much data out of the Facebook cloud as you collected from your traditional sources. And you can synchronize it every hour and access it via your mobile device in seconds connecting to the cloud.

The examples of sample behavior are endless. When a woman gets engaged, within two minutes, she tells her friends. We have, via Facebook, a nearly perfect registry of everyone getting married, everyone graduating, everybody changing their name, everybody traveling on vacation. When someone decides he likes a new musical act, he tells his friends within a minute.  There are currently 540 million monthly active mobile Facebook users with the ability and willingness to update personal data instantly. Anyone who still thinks that his or her CRM systems are up to date after looking at this real-time database is living under a rock.

I understand that there are privacy concerns when it comes to Facebook, and I’ll be addressing those concerns in a future blog post. But my point today is that companies should be looking to synchronize all of their customer data with Facebook. Once those permissions are granted, you’ll have a complete 360-degree view of your customers. And twelve months ago, you couldn’t have done it at all. The opportunity here is to turbocharge your CRM systems while gaining deep insight into your customers and your fans.

This infographic serves as a gift guide for consumers. The insights are based on data derived from more than 17 million Facebook users’ “likes” across a number of gift-related categories.

That’s the idea behind our Wisdom product. Look, there are 20 million organizations that have customer analytic systems. They have 20 million different databases. We created a system for all 20 million of them. We built a universal customer data warehouse pulling out of the Facebook cloud, enriching with Wikipedia, with Google, with Apple, and with government data sources, such as the Census. Our idea is to provide this actionable insight to every company on Earth.

So here we go. This is wisdom. It contains more than 17-million profiles in its database. There’s a 20-terabyte database that’s updated every hour and accessible via the Cloud. Who are our Wisdom users? They live in 143,660 cities. Among them, they like 1.7 billion things. So now I’ve got a pretty statistically interesting sample of the world. I mean this puts any survey or poll to shame.

I can apply all the power I’d have in  $100 million worth of polling, but with Wisdom I can apply it to my local diner and to other places where my friends hang out. So we’re bringing it to everybody, small business and big business a like, and to the individual consumer and Facebook user, in seconds to their mobile devices.

The Holiday Shopping Guide infographic, right, shows consumers most “liked” gifts for the year. This is a simple example of the power of Wisdom. This data was derived from analyzing more than 17-million consumers and their preferences.  Using demographic data, we’re able to segment by gender and age and location and education level.

In conclusion, we should be thinking about the bigger implications of the mobile shopping trend. Cyber Monday will soon be referred to as Mobile Monday, and now is the time for companies to take advantage of the Mobile Wave.



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.

Continue reading

Voter ID Laws: Mobile Technology and Tomorrow’s Presidential Election

With the U.S. presidential election tomorrow, it’s inevitable that people are debating the enforcement of voter ID laws.

Yet it’s quite clear to me that every identification system on earth, from a Social Security card in the U.S. all the way to the national citizen cards in Europe and the Middle East, will soon be rendered obsolete.

In five years there’ll be five billion people with smart phones.  So some time in the next five to ten years people that run countries, banks, governments, organizations and yes, elections, will realize that once you can use software on a smartphone to validate one’s identity, present forms of ID systems will go the way of the horse and buggy.

Continue reading

Why Fantasy Trumps Science Fiction

The mobile wave is a battle for the future, which means that it will require not only engineering and creativity, but also a taste for fantasy.  Some people think that science fiction helps to explain the future. But for me and many other software technologists, it’s actually fantasy that draws us in.  Let me explain.

When I was growing up, I loved reading both of these genres, and in fact they tended to be lumped together, not just in the bookstore and library, but also in the popular imagination.

Now, three decades later, I see a distinction, one that has become clearer during the course of my career.  Science fiction is about extrapolating creatively in Newtonian space.  It’s about examining what happens in the world of faster-than-light travel and warped drives.  It’s about asking how would you play basketball on Mars and could you fly on the Moon?  And it’s about designing how big the wings would have to be for such travel, and what would the air pressure be, and how would you design the container?

Don’t get me wrong.  Those are all really good exercises for engineers.  But if you design software, a better exercise is reading about elves, dwarves and magic spells.  That’s because in the fantasy world, I can caste a spell on a car key such that my kid can’t use it at night. Or I can actually zap the key to 37 people, but then take it back whenever I want.

Continue reading

Technology Fails Until It Succeeds

For 2000 years, people tried to fly and nobody could. From Icarus to Da Vinci,  everybody wanted to design a flying machine. Jules Verne dreamed about flying machines.

Despite these dreamers, nobody could fly. In 1902, an educated man would have told you the million reasons why people will never fly. Yet just one year later, in 1903, the Wright Brothers flew.  We went from nothing to a steep learning curve and then, from 1903 to 1969, we went from not being able to fly, to putting a man on the moon. It was a meteoric advance in technology and it’s no surprise.

Probably one of the richest men in the world for 30 of those years was Howard Hughes of Hughes Aircraft. His wealth was substantially based upon aviation technology.  That  was the advancing technology of the time, the technology that failed until it succeeded, and then advanced until it hit a wall.

Continue reading