Disruptive Software

I'm reading Clayton Christensen's book, The Innovator's Dilemma (in Reader - I bought the eBook), and it's an interesting read. It looks at the history of the hard drive market in incredible detail, and tries to determine why so many companies have come and gone in the hard drive market over the last 30 years.

His research into the history of hard drives is impressive, and the book is worth reading for that alone.

I'm not sure, yet, that I buy his explanation that failure to anticipate Disruptive Technology is the reason that drive companies failed, but it's easy to see disruptive technology in action in other places.

The basic idea behind Disruptive Technology is that it's a technology that's not an adequate for the way things are done today, but could become so in the future. Digital camera technology is a perfect example. Nobody was replacing their film cameras with digital when the best you could do was 640x480, but now, there are few film purists. Most of the world has switched to digital.

I'm wondering if there's a disruptive technology aspect to the way that Microsoft releases software. Often they arrive in a market with a product that's inexpensive, underfeatured, and apparently unsuitable compared to the competition, but years later, they've moved into that market in a serious way.

Specifically MSN Messenger and SQL Server followed this pattern, and I think they're on the same track with .NET.

.NET in particular is disruptive to the Java market, because with respective to a server architecture it's a simpler J2EE that many would say is not up to the tasks that J2EE is handling, but on the other hand, can scale up to meet J2EE and is on a path to do so.

Whether these are disruptive technologies or simply releasing an inferior technology and having the money to stand behind it long enough for it to become superior, the end result seems to be the same.

But to me, I think in the software world, the opportunity for disruptive technology exists anywhere the existing technology has grown beyond what users need. And there's a lot of that around.