The Netbook: A disruptive force?

At MIT, I had the pleasure of listening to the great Clay Christensen author of The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business (Collins Business Essentials)among other well-known books.

He is well known for coining the term, Disruptive Technology a technology or product that comes into a market and takes over from an existing market leader or incumbent. For this to happen, Christensen proposes three requisites:

1. It must be cheaper than in incumbent.
2. It must under-perform the incumbent. Why? To the incumbent, the technology seems trivial and unimposing so much so that the incumbent fails to 'see it coming'.
3. It must offer ancillary benefits.

Netbooks seem to fit that bill, or do they? Let's look at the prerequisites carefully.

1. Cheaper: Indeed Netbooks are cheaper. The Cheapest of Netbooks start around $150. Cheap laptops start somewhere near $300.

2. Underperforming: This requisite is also satisfied by Netbooks. They offer less computing power. Most of them have smaller hard drives and many simply do not have a hard drive. Of course, being smaller Netbooks have smaller screens.

3. Ancillary Benefits? I am not too sure about this one. The sales pitches mention lesser weight, smaller size, etc., but these simply mean one benefit: portability. Yes, low power consumption is another. Another pitch is the case for a small form factor. Is this really a benefit? Then I have seen the case made for 'Internet ready applications' and improved user friendliness for Ubuntu Netbooks. Pulling at straws, aren't we?

I remember an article comparing the Netbook to a second car. Guess that would be a good sell. Sometimes a second car is preferable, if the first one is the big family car and if I needed to pickup a few beverages in a hurry. I would not plan on giving up the family car, though.

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