I discovered the term "disruptive technology" while dabbling in day trading. Basically it's a technology or business that enters a space and disrupts the current sales and business model -- these days, almost always using technology as a catalyst. I actually did some trading in these stocks, and here's a tip: When it seems the price is stupid ... it is!
The Interwebs have proven be a very disruptive technology. The Web changed the travel industry, in fact, knocked it on its backside -- driving the costs for travelers down and almost entirely removing the "travel agency" from the model.
Currently another biz model is facing a pretty rough row to hoe. Newspapers are facing a "perfect storm" with advertisers moving to the Internet, in particular search, and to a lesser extent social media and social networking sites. Traditional media like television (a story in and of itself), radio and newspapers are watching the Internet take market share away, to the point that some are putting paywalls back up.
Free dailies are taking box revenue and subscribers from the newspapers. I used to buy a newspaper to read on the subway. Not anymore -- I just grab the Metro (a local Toronto daily that just announced a deal with Foursquare), and I get the real news on the Web.
Over the years, as the Internet has become ingrained into the fabric of society, it's natural that it become the central distribution system for news. Now AP (the Associated Press) has possibly left/been dropped from Google ... the plot thickens.
Any industry that depends on lead generation is increasingly dependent on the Internet. IMO, that will gain velocity with ubiquitous connectivity just around the corner. Google's disruptive technology in the lead generating biz is brought to you by Caffeine and the horsepower it provides to gather leads right in the AdWords ad! For the content network, this becomes a very interesting prospect for PPA over other click-based pricing.
The contextual network becomes just a little more interesting to advertisers in that scenario, doesn't it? This provides an ad service no other vendor can provide ... yet. Disruptive? I'll bet the people in Redmond think so. I understand Bing could do this with its "no click" search but AFAIK they haven't announced anything.
For developers like myself, Google just took $'s right out of my pocket! Won't be long before they will be looking to cut SEM's out of ad management as well. Simply, Google will not stop until it owns a vertical end-to-end, that's the way disruptive technology is supposed to work. They bought Urchin, the only major competition in the free analytics space, supplying another piece of the end-to-end domination of paid search.
"No-click search" would be an SEO killer. You never leave "The Gorg" collective. I wake up in a cold sweat whenever I dream about it. So the Gorg has newspapers begging for mercy, it owns Internet and video search, so where is it going next? Well, mobile of course! Resistance is futile!
Enter Nexus One. The phone isn't that disruptive, but as @BrentdPayne pointed out, the direct sales method using commerce search or another system is potentially a major game changer in the e-commerce world. Woot! I must be prescient -- I got out of the conventional cart biz in 2008.
The mobile market is one I don't think can be disrupted unless you do it with free data plans and phones. What no one in mobile wants to discuss is how it is so much a texting medium that Twitter or a Twitter-like app could potentially do better than mobile search.
I said it in the early days of mobile and I'll say it again: Given a choice, people will always surf on the desktop, using phones only when they are trying to locate a location. The exception, possibly, is Asia, where desktop internet services are in the same predicament as mobile data plans in North America, i.e., no one will pay the exorbitant fees. NA Telcos? They are basically addicted to the public teat (in Canada at least) that government provides so they wouldn't think of dropping prices!
Knowing the Gorg, they will try, realize ads can't support it profitably and exit! Just like they did with print advertising. But to make up for that they will partner with "big box" stores and replace that biz with the "no-click e-commerce network." $50,000 to play and you get all the customer headaches! Yeah ... the Interwebs ... complete assimilation? Naw, but IMO, it does change it, for me professionally at the very least!
The good news is Google's disruptive technology strategies don't always succeed. To be truly disruptive the product must be used, and Google Docs, Chrome OS and other products meant to disrupt Office and the Windows OS have been, for the most part, failures, with the exception of Gmail. The Chrome browser has a shot, but with browser wars it's pretty hard to see the outcome ... until it's happened.
I don't know for sure but I don't think they are going to be successful in the cloud either. Simply, biz will be wary of a cloud where customer service isn't instant and low-cost. Second, there's the risk, because public companies can't really be dependent on the Interwebs. Document storage has a good shot, however, crucial business software in the cloud makes no sense.
Terry Van Horne is the founder of SeoPros and a 15-year veteran of Web development, currently working out of his consulting and development firm International Website Builders. Terry's interests are primarily the socialization of search and analysis of social Web traffic and applications like Twitter.