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This disruption thing is harder than it looks

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, writer Kimberly Chou reviewed the fates of several contenders to be disruptive technologies in the industries in which they were introduced. . Among these are the flip videorecorder, the "peek" phone and various forms of internet enabled devices. What they have in common is that they are all trying to carve out a niche in markets that were established at much higher price points. As the article makes clear, it's not as easy as it looks. To be truly disruptive, along the lines of Clayton Christensen's definition of the term, a device would have to introduce a new dimension of competition, or offer a radically different price, making usage affordable for previous non-users or otherwise appealing to customers who weren't attracted before. Unfortunately, the Peek phone is finding that established rivals may be dropping prices so quickly that its would-be niche of customers willing to trade off more advanced functionality for a cheaper price may be a lot smaller than it initially thought. All of which goes to illustrate one of the principles of disruption — the offer has to be dramatically, not just incrementally, different along several important dimensions to disrupt an industry. Just price, or simplified features, isn't going to do it.

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