Posted by: crudbasher | October 13, 2011

An Example Of Disruptive Innovation In Action

Clayton Christensen’s theory of Disruptive Innovation has been mentioned many times on this blog. Basically it say that innovation starts on the edges of an industry, not in the middle. Digital music wasn’t a big threat at first to the music business so they didn’t take it seriously for a while. Blogs were ignored by newspapers and YouTube was ignored by Hollywood. It is difficult to see how things can change while things are going great.

Apple is doing quite well with it’s iPad tablet. There are many others on the market but the iPad is the overwhelming favorite so far. Because of this I am sure nobody at Apple cares much about this tablet India has produced for it’s students. It is small, very underpowered and can’t do even a fraction of what an iPad can do. The only reason anyone noticed it at all is the target price of $35.

The reason this tablet is a disruptive innovation is because of the inevitable progress in technology. Computers seem to stay about the same price from year to year but in fact that isn’t true. If you look at the cost per unit of computation the price has been falling at an exponential pace. This is what Ray Kurzweil calls the Law of Accellerating Returns.

What this means is that while the Indian tablet is underpowered now, it won’t be in 5 years time. Oh sure the iPads of that time will be many times faster than they are today but you won’t need all that power in a lot of applications. There will be computational devices that are almost free. In fact if you trace the timeline out, in 10 years, computers will be thousands of times faster than today but will only cost a dollar to be able to do most things you want to do.

Very low cost doesn’t allow for high margins but it can be very popular with consumers.

Here’s a great video from Lee Crockett talking about this rapid change.

    • After over a year’s wait since a prototype was first shown to reporters last year, proud Indian officials publicly unveiled the world’s cheapest tablet computer on Wednesday.
    • The device, widely known as the “$35 tablet,” is being seen not just as a valuable educational tool for graduate students, but as a milestone in India’s development from a tech services country to one that innovates and develops original products.
    • The tablet, which was developed in partnership with IIT Rajasthan, actually costs closer to $50
    • Mr. Tuli said at the launch that the goal is to get the price down to $35, and eventually maybe to $10.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. Great post! I hadn’t heard about this tablet and its very interesting. I wonder how this concept of disruptive innovation can be applied education in the boarder sense – i.e., not just higher ed?

    • Hi Mary,

      I think the disruption factor will be that more and more students will bring their own computers and smart phones into the classroom. As cost keeps dropping, it won’t be uncommon for every students to have a smart phone at least.

      Thanks for commenting!! it’s always good to hear from you!

  2. […] last two years, I have been influenced by several big theories. One of these is the theory of Disruptive Innovation by Clayton M. Christensen. In it, he illustrates that even large established businesses can be […]

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