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Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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MicroStrategy Says It's Time for Mobile BI

"We are on the verge of a new era that will result in a new class of applications that will change the way we think about our business," says MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor. That era will be driven largely by mobile... Yes, mobile.

There was record attendance at MicroStrategy's annual conference in Las Vegas this week, with more than 1,500 customers and partners attending. While a conference in Las Vegas may have the perception of extravagance, in reality, the hotel and flight were the cheapest I can recall.

As is this vendor's tradition, the general session kicked off with a rock impersonator, this year, Gwen Stefani. The performance wasn't particularly memorable, in contrast to last year's Tina Turner ("we're simply the best…") or to the both daring and amusing Kinks' Lola in 2008 ("BI bake off…"). (Truly, if there were a YouTube clip of this rendition, I know BI teams around the world would be playing it at their selection kick offs.)CEO Mike Saylor declared in his keynote, "We are on the verge of a new era that will result in a new class of applications that will change the way we think about our business." That era is driven largely by mobile. Yes, mobile. Not a new headline, and yet, Saylor probably made what is the most compelling articulation of why mobile may revolutionize BI.

In part, it is the sheer explosion of smartphones, particularly the Apple iPhone. The number of smartphones is more than twice the number of desktops, suggesting a doubling in size of the potential BI market.

Mobile BI has made headlines for a while now, but it seems to have met with a degree of ambivalence. As Doug Henschen wrote in 2008, 73% of companies have little to no interest. In the cool BI course I teach, mobile BI didn't make anyone's top three list of investments (see here), nor did it make my top 2010 trends list (it was a short list). Given that Saylor didn't even mention some of the other industry buzzes (cloud computing, social networking), I had to wonder if he's missing something or if it is indeed, the simple-yet-obvious innovations we initially tend to overlook. As one Cool BI course attendee pointed out to me, mobile BI got not votes in my class, and yet, ironically, it was mobile technology that allowed for the voting and presentation of results.

Saylor pointed out how Web-based BI tethers you to a desktop, whereas mobile BI lets a decision maker access information from anywhere, and more easily throughout the day. The time window for information access increases with mobile BI.

He elaborated that it is the additional utility, reach, and experience an iPhone can bring to BI. With a built in GPS, smartphones know where you are so they can, for example, automatically give sales for customers in the area (a capability IBM Cognos first offered in its Go! Mobile in 8.4). Built-in cameras allow for immediate product pictures and more. To scale to that many users, though, a solution has to be fast.

MicroStrategy touted its in-memory solution last year in MicroStrategy 9. With MicroStrategy 9 Release 2 (available as of last week), the vendor has improved its cache load times, query processing times, and memory consumption. VP of Marketing Mark LaRow claimed that cubes consume 70% less memory in the latest release, making an already scalable solution more so.

While many in the electronics industry were speculating about a new tablet PC from Apple this week, LaRow slipped in that MicroStrategy runs on Amazon Kindle DX. Surprizing to me was that his mention was an afterthought more than a headline. True, the Kindle market is smaller than the smartphone market, and more a consumer product than business product, but nonetheless, if I were trying to track latest customer sales numbers, I'd rather see it on the larger Kindle screen. In an industry that likes to brag about firsts, it is also the first I've heard any BI vendor mention Kindle support.

So I wonder if I had stayed one more day, if they would have snuck in a mention of the Apple Ipad too.

Sincerely, Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard"We are on the verge of a new era that will result in a new class of applications that will change the way we think about our business," says MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor. That era will be driven largely by mobile... Yes, mobile.

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