Why Disruptive Innovation Never Looks Like Disruptive Innovation

Things change and in today’s unbelievably fast-paced technology environment, things change, well, fast. Innovations that disrupt markets or further still, create a brand new market while destroying another (also known as creative destruction) often don’t look like much upon their initial release. The king of the proverbial mountain either is too focused on their business or too dismissive of newcomers that are too small to compete, too weird for mainstream adoption or too non-related to their core business. It’s why most can’t recognize disruption until disruption has already occurred.

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apple chainsThe Biggest Threat to Apple is Android Right?… Wrong.

Even as Andriod has slowly but surely taken market share away from iPhone, all the way to the point of eclipsing Apple’s total market share of the smartphone arena, this has not been disruptive to Apple. How can that be the case? Well the iPhone is still the single greatest selling smart phone and keep in mind, Apple only makes one phone! In the meantime, Apple’s jump on the tablet market was perfectly timed and Android competitors – even those reviewed as being real threats to the iPad – have fallen way short in sales.

On Point Read: Can You Be as Innovative as Apple?

Meanwhile as Google and Apple continue to slug it out, slowly (well not really that slowly) and steadily another has been going about this from a completely different angle. First turning their logistical prowess and competitive advantage of owning no brick and mortar buildings on the gigantic book market, which was ripe for disruption. Then strategically coming to market (in enough advance prior to the first iPad) with a breakthrough device that did one thing exceptionally well. Then, in a move that seemed odd at the time, releasing a litany of services allowing for streaming of scores of digital content and a new way to store all that data. And finally, like a seasoned chess master patiently awaiting to unleash his Queen, they introduce a new device at an extraordinarily approachable price point that makes outstanding use of all services innovation and competitive advantages the company has created and earned. If you haven’t cracked this riddle by now, well I’ll just tell you, it’s Amazon.

The Kindle Fire doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of an iPad 2 – no camera & no GPS location services are two of the several that stand out – but at only $200, the “Fire” is a media consumption darling.

Waiter servingBesides the much lower price point of just under $200 (versus $500+ for iPad or Android tablets), the true disruption comes in the form of the suite of services Amazon can now provide Fire owners. It’s not that Apple isn’t providing movies, or hasn’t done music well via iTunes, it’s just that Amazon through advances like free cloud storage of content, the expanding library of Amazon Prime streaming content and a growing “Lending Library” for eBooks, is simply doing it better. And now, they have the perfect media device, at the right price point to cause disruption. Many users of technology, once they begin using a service that makes things easy for them – like free cloud storage of all content – stick with that technology or provider.

So why is this disruptive to Apple and Android’s smartphone market share gain not? Because Apple, like many mature companies, will need to shift to services innovation to maintain growth. If millions upon millions of people are getting a suite of services from Amazon, through their much less expensive device, this will cause Apple some really big headaches. Don’t forget, Amazon owns Amazon.com (of course), Diapers.com (all things baby), Wag.com (all things pets), YoYo.com (all things toys) and Soap.com (all things personal hygienics) and we’d be remiss to underestimate their ability to get Kindle Fire users to shop at these “locations”.

Please don’t take this as our calling Apple doomed by any means. The fact remains they have sold over 250 million devices operating iOS, that is simply astounding. Furthermore, as Apple feels disruption in their content services space via Amazon, they are the ones disrupting search with their bold new Artificial Intelligence inteface Siri.

So, it wasn’t a software company. It wasn’t a mobile phone maker. It wasn’t one brand new invention. It was a methodically shifting e-retailer that disrupted Apple. And it’s why disruptive innovation never looks like disruptive innovation.

Image credit: asli-indian.com, townofstratford.com

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