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Friday, November 4, 2011

Of Smartphones and Tablets: A Disruption in the Making?

Compared to an average PC, even the best of smartphones or tablets sport limited computational power and memory capacity. Smartphones, in particular, also come with the additional constraint of a small screen.

Yet, when it comes to basic, everyday functionality such as reading email or keeping up with the latest on Facebook or Tweeter, tablets and smartphones seem to “get the job done” quite nicely. Furthermore, they allow their users to do that on the go.

The sales trend evidence is overwhelming: The combined unit sales of smartphones and tablets have already exceeded the combined unit sales of notebook, notebooks, and desktops since the 4th quarter of 2010 - the gap is only is increasing as we speak.

Additionally, since the 2nd quarter of 2010, Windows installations amount to less than a half of all Internet-enabled devices. Due to the fact that Windows currently (Oct 2011) represents less than 6% of the overall smartphone market and less than 5% of the tablet market, its clear that it’s the non-PC segment of the Internet-enabled market that is growing.

In Innovation Management parlance, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades). To the marketer, a disruption is the Holy Grail of product development and commercialization. Elusive, and seeming unattainable. But, it exists and often when least expected.

Back in 1979, the Sony Walkman disrupted the audio reproduction equipment value chain. Sure, the Walkman didn’t sound half as good as the average High-Fidelity system of the time, but it was good enough to listen along the likes of Michael Jackson, or the Go-Go’s on the … go.

Eventually the Walkman went to sell more than 200 million units and fundamentally changed how people experienced music.

Are smartphones and tablets the new Walkman? They are smaller, more portable, less powerful versions of their full-size PC cousins and, most importantly, for the vast majority of the users, the get the job done.

So, it If it looks Like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck…., yes indeed, I think we are witnessing the disruption of the Wintel dominated PC value chain. Stay put on your (touch) screens, there is more to come.