When the Internet was first thrust upon us, we didn’t know what to make of it. Nor did we know which of the entrants of the budding new market would win the beauty contest. Our intuition was that someone (such as AOL, Netscape, Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo) would, and that the technology would be a game changer.
There are times when a technology is bigger than the first-to-market entrant who introduces it to us. A current case in point is Toyota, a company who has been vilified in light of their massive quality and public relations problems. Yet Toyota has my attention, as they are braced to create disruption.
I recently bought a Lexus hybrid. I didn’t really buy it for environmental reasons, although reducing my carbon footprint was certainly a bonus. I bought it because I wanted all the toys, Lexus service and quality and was intrigued by the concept of 35 miles to the gallon (in a volatile world where the price of oil is at risk).
At its core, strategy is about managing trade-offs, and this technology provides the potential for consumers to gain the most, and give up the least. I believe hybrid technology will emerge as a breakthrough, cross-over technology adopted by the majority of drivers in the U.S. in the next 5-7 years. Electric cars are novel, yet inconvenient. Americans are not going to adapt to sitting at charging stations for 2 hours, nor will they settle for a lack of power. U.S. oil producers will not support any material shift to hydrogen, or corn, or recycled Twinkies, or whatever. While the Prius was perceived as small and sluggish, the Lexus (a Toyota brand) is neither, and proves that the underlying technology can appeal to the masses. Toyota is way ahead of the pack in hybrid technology and I believe the day will come when it will provide a significant competitive advantage.
Of course this post is not about hybrids at all, it is about identifying breakthrough technologies that can disrupt an industry. Often, fortunes are made by the purveyor of a technology, as well as others who create alliances or business that can feed off it.
There are entire cottage industries being built to support such technologies, including the myriad of developers creating apps for The App Exchange (SalesForce) and Apple App Store.
Will Apple beat Microsoft in business computing (the answer is already clear in consumer products)? Will cloud computing completely alter the technology landscape in ways we can’t even comprehend? Which mobile technologies will change the way we work and live?
What changes in health care technologies will revolutionize the way we care for the sick? What emerging technologies could reshape your industry? What new delivery systems will improve the way your customers do business (or consume products)? The answer will come based on who can create the best balance of trade-offs and win the beauty contest.