Innovator’s DilemmaThe Innovator’s Dilemma,” Clayton Christensen’s best seller from back in 2003, is still one of the most important business books of our time.

In it, the author seeks to explain why disruptive technologies from upstart companies repeatedly seem to emerge from nowhere to dominate existing market segments. His conclusion is that most industry-busting disruptive technologies aren’t “innovative” in the traditional sense – rather, they are often based on products that are smaller, cheaper, less functional, and unprofitable.

It just happens that over time, those technologies improve little-by-little until they become “good enough.” At that point, the markets tip and there is a mass migration away from the established technologies into the new ones.

This dynamic is happening now in the video streaming market. To succeed we know we need to “break the mold” with disruptive innovations, and not rely on incremental improvements alone. Two recent examples: Qumu Pathfinder and VCC Professional Edition.

Can the same be said for other video ecosystem technology vendors?

I attended Streaming Media East last week, which made me wonder which of the core streaming technologies that make up the enterprise video ecosystem are headed for this kind of disruption.

  • High-end cameras are a prime candidate for disruption (Who needs a $10K HD camera when you can broadcast to your enterprise from the iPhone? Yeah, the iPhone isn’t that great now… but it will soon be “good enough”).
  • Encoder technology appliances (and their manufacturers) seem at risk, too (When will software encoders and capture cards be “good enough”? ). Putting more technology into the encoder box is exactly what Clayton Christensen advises against.
  • Internet CDNs are probably next for disruption (the basics of video streaming/proxy caching are already being built into network appliances now… why buy a third-party CDN when good enough is almost good enough?).

I am curious to hear what others in the industry think.