Top Tech Disruptors of the 2000’s

January 4, 2010
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200912311408.jpg Every decade seems to carry a set of defining themes in tech. For the 1990’s it was the move to client / server, the emergence of the transaction web and the frenzy to “solve” the Y2K threat (and perhaps the rise of the Internet bubble). The 2000’s started with a fizzle as the world realized that the Y2K “threat” was a non-event and continued with a loud pop as the Internet “bubble” burst. Beyond that somewhat inauspicious beginnings though, we had an active and productive decade in tech with many disruptors and advances that set up the next decade as one that will see dramatic change in tech.

So what are the key developments and disruptions from the last decade? Here are, IMHO, the most important developments of the last decade:

1. Mobile: The 2000’s will be known as the decade that put the Internet in our pockets. Apple, with its introduction of the iPhone and the apps store…

200912311408.jpg Every decade seems to carry a set of defining themes in tech. For the 1990’s it was the move to client / server, the emergence of the transaction web and the frenzy to “solve” the Y2K threat (and perhaps the rise of the Internet bubble). The 2000’s started with a fizzle as the world realized that the Y2K “threat” was a non-event and continued with a loud pop as the Internet “bubble” burst. Beyond that somewhat inauspicious beginnings though, we had an active and productive decade in tech with many disruptors and advances that set up the next decade as one that will see dramatic change in tech.

So what are the key developments and disruptions from the last decade? Here are, IMHO, the most important developments of the last decade:

1. Mobile: The 2000’s will be known as the decade that put the Internet in our pockets. Apple, with its introduction of the iPhone and the apps store changed everything. Yes there were so called “smart phones” before the iPhone but they were a shadow of the power that Apple put in our hands with the first (and arguably still the best) mobile computing platform. Mobile is the key that opened or at least accelerated many of the other disruptions in the 2000’s.

2. Cloud: We opened the decade with the applications service provider (ASP) or hosted business model starting to make small (very small) inroads against on premise apps and we leave the decade with full blown concept called cloud computing disrupting the software world. Salesforce.com led the charge first in the apps market and then breaking ground again in the platform as a service (PaaS) market with its Force.com platform. Cloud computing has broken out into 3 distinct “layers”, cloud apps (like Salesforce.com’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud), PaaS (Force.com and Netsuite’s Suitecloud for example) and cloud infrastructure (Amazon EC2, Rackspace, etc.). A 4th layer started to emerge in 2009, Cloudsourcing (I wrote about it here), or software in a service that combines business process outsourcing and cloud apps into a single offering. I believe we will see a lot more from cloudsourcing offerings in 2010. I could spend a lot of time predicting where I think the cloud is moving as we step into 2010, but I’ll save that for the upcoming predictions post.

3. Social Web: This last decade will be remembered as the time that the social web grew up. It did have roots in the late 90’s of course, but the move from the transaction web to the social web happened during the 2000’s as blogging matured as a media form, social networking redefined on line relationships, and microblogging set a new standard for real time information sharing. The social web has proven to be transgenerational and transformative on the consumer side. For business we started with enterprise 2.0, which often focused more on internal enterprise processes, social media, which manifest the use of web 2.0 tools for outbound business (like Twitter, blogging, etc.), social CRM and finally, as we leave the 2000’s, the more holistic social business movement. Social business starts to combine all of these different movements into an internal and external business strategy to transform the way people interact. One other concept should be mentioned in this context, in fact I almost made it its own separate disruption, collective intelligence. So much of the value in the social web for business comes from the application of the concept of collective intelligence to solving business problems and deciding which products or services to build / sell.

4. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA): A few years ago…actually for a good part of the last decade, SW vendors talked about SOA. First vendors released apps that were SOA “enabled” and now we’re seeing the release of “native” SOA apps across the next few years. SOA is important but I do think that some vendors over-played the SOA card where customers were concerned. Frankly I’m not so sure how much customers cared about SOA, they certainly cared about the results, easier integration and in a world that is increasingly seeing IT departments with apps both on premise and in the cloud integration is an even higher priority. To me buying an app with SOA is like buying a house with modern, up to code plumbing; I’d certainly care if it wasn’t there or didn’t work, but its not a factor in why I would buy the house.

5. Context aware apps: Building apps that react appropriately to the real-time context of their use is a concept that we’ve talked about for quite a few years. Over the last few years (especially the last 2 years) we’ve started to see good examples of this concept in software and devices. Probably the most prevalent example is in mobility where augmented reality apps are making some headway in using location to provide a variety of information ranging from user generated tags and reviews of restaurants, coffee shops, bars and clubs to tour guide-like information on local landmarks (I discuss this more in this post). Smart devices that combine SW and HW to provide contextual information are also starting to become available (Fedex SenseAware, for example). There are other enterprise examples as well, things like analytics that provide relevant information to users based on who is using the app (role) and what specific function they are performing.

6. Influence: OK, influence isn’t a technology disruption, but instead it was significantly disrupted by technology over the last decade. The social web has caused a huge shift in the way we look at influence in almost all industries. Since I’m in the technology influence business it’s easy for me to see just how broad and deep this disruption is causing change. The analyst business is certainly feeling the impact of this disruption and the changing channels and models that accompany it. Content used to be where a great deal of the value was for tech analysts firms, for example, but because of the changes content is now becoming something that is available in ever increasing quantities for free. This change alone has caused a massive ripple in media, especially print. Don’t get me wrong, content is still important, its just not the point of value, instead the influence itself is the point of value. Taking this further, content establishes influence and influence and content establish credibility. Companies will pay for credibility in the form of consulting for example. Blogs, microblogs (Twitter), online videos, podcasts and social networks are increasingly the center of building / increasing influence.

7. Real-time: The web is becoming real-time through channels like Twitter and search is following this trend (see this post). Today people look to the web for breaking news and real-time information sharing (conversations). This has all sorts of implications for traditional media and for all consumers of information. The evolution of real-time search fuels this shift and will make the web both the channel and the source for real-time information gathering.

8. Connectedness / people as the platform: The last decade has seen the start of a shift in focus in the enterprise from technology to people. As people become the platform technology becomes the enabler for this process. Mobile combined with our always on culture is accelerating the shift both personally and in the enterprise.

9. Consolidation in tech: The last decade was in many ways defined by the massive consolidation across the tech vendor landscape. Many of the major brands of the 1990’s are no longer independent companies but instead part of the remaining few mega-tech vendors. Oracle of course led this movement with something like 60 acquisitions in 5 years but many of the other mega-vendors did major acquisitions as well. Multi-brand product portfolios, something seen often in other industries, has become a very viable and profitable business model in tech. Here are two posts that talk more about the impact of this new landscape: 1 and 2

Well that’s my list. Now some may ask why Google didn’t make the list. I debated this with myself quite a bit. I do think that Google has the potential to be a disruptor in the enterprise but this list is about disruptions that have already started and I just don’t see Google’s influence as that strong in the enterprise yet. Certainly they’re the powerhouse in search and I believe that they have the potential to be a powerhouse in mobile with Android. The other things they’re working on, including Google Apps, Wave, etc. are all interesting but I still think we’re at the wait and see point. Come back and check this list in another 10 years, maybe Google is a major disruption by then…