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Disruptive technology

The term disruptive technology was coined by Clayton M. Christensen to describe a new, low cost, often simpler technology that displaces an existing sustaining technology.

Disruptive technologies are usually initially inferior to the technology that they displace, but their low cost creates a market that induces technological and economic network effects that provide the incentive to enhance them to match and surpass the previous technology.

Examples of successful disruptive technologies:

  1. mass-market cellular telephony
  2. the Internet protocol
  3. digital cameras
  4. personal computers
  5. voice over IP
  6. EIDE/UDMA hard drives
  7. open-source software
  8. ADSL
  9. Compact Discs
  10. the automobile
  11. add more examples here...

Examples of sustaining technologies being displaced:

  1. fixed-line telephony
  2. proprietary or fixed-configuration networks
  3. photographic film
  4. mainframe computers
  5. analog and fixed digital telephone systems
  6. SCSI hard drives
  7. proprietary software
  8. ISDN
  9. railways
  10. amateur radio
  11. add more examples here...

Not all technologies promoted as disruptive technologies have actually prospered as well as their proponents had hoped. However, some of these technologies have only been around for a few years, and their ultimate fate has not yet been determined.

Unresolved examples of technologies promoted as 'disruptive technologies'

Failed technologies originally promoted as 'disruptive technologies'