We all know the names and stories of the innovations that have changed the trajectory of technology as well as the implementation and use of technology. These innovations are sometimes also termed 'disruptive,' in the positive sense of the word, because they disrupt the norm and open us to new ideas.
What is out there now that may be among the latest set of disruptive technologies?
Among the top contenders is the rapidly expanding role that microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are playing in a wide array of electronic devices, from industrial to healthcare to consumer end products. MEMS are proliferating to the point that their functionality and the user experience generated by them are becoming normative. As MEMS proliferates, they are becoming less decoupled from the other components and are being designed in/co-designed with ICs.
Another disruptive technology that has been circulating for a while in the R&D discussion space, but hasn't been as prevalent in the commercial sector, is the blurring of the software-hardware divide. As various electronics are requiring more monitoring for such aspects as power management/battery life, control consoles, and other interface aspects, software is becoming more embedded in hardware. The most recent commercial news of this disruptive technology is Intel's Moblin v2.0 (read here and here from Intel) that is designed for the Atom chip for netbooks and other mobile internet devices (MIDs).
To be fair, there are many contenders to be included in the next set of disruptive technologies, but what is interesting about these two categories is their connection to the consumer's interaction with the electronics. As we have been watching in the mobile handset arena, the waterfall path of products cycling from high-end to low-end is rapid and differentiation is now about more than memory or speed.
As Forrester Research analyst Ian Fogg points out, the product target market, particularly for MIDs, is now better strategized as 'utility and entertainment' rather than 'business or consumer' (well summarized here). This shift in how we conceptualize markets is a quite disruptively wonderful idea itself.