The next disruptor in mobile technology

The next disruptor in mobile technology

Summary: Smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearables. They’re growing like crazy. Even with all of this activity in mobile, it’s not clear what the next disruptor may be nor where it will come from.

(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

It's safe to say there hasn't been a faster growing technology segment than the mobile tech space. There has not been one as disruptive to both the industry and society, either. Be that as it may, thoughts turn to what the next disruptive force might be and which company will introduce it.

Disruptive products and technologies have driven the rapid growth of the mobile space. The Palm Pilot was an early disruptor that exposed millions to mobile technology while creating a viable app ecosystem. That led to a robust accessory ecosystem the size of which had not been seen before.

There’s no question the iPhone was a disruptor of epic proportions in the mobile space. It single-handedly jump-started the smartphone industry and has touched people the world over.

The iPad did the same, and while tablets had existed for years, the first from Apple created an entire industry. Whatever tablet you use you can thank the iPad for disrupting things to get everyone’s attention.

Now we have Google and its partners trying to disrupt mobile tech with wearables. They tried first with Google Glass and that didn't work so now they are trying with smartwatches. This isn’t likely to happen as they are missing a major criteria for disruptors — great implementation of a feature or set of features that people want in a compelling form factor.

Special Feature

Wearables: Fit For Business?

Wearables: Fit For Business?

The explosion of interest in wearable computing is one of tech's fastest rising trends. While big moves from Google, Apple, and Samsung will likely attract a lot of attention, we're going to examine the broader potential that wearables hold for driving innovation in business.

So what’s the next disruptor in mobile tech going to be? Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon that would remotely qualify. There have been many recent attempts to shake things up, NFC springs to mind, but they haven’t caused a ripple, much less disrupted things.

Whatever it will be it must be technology that stands alone, either a device or software that radically changes the way things are now. A single feature won’t do it no matter how innovative it might be, as those tend to simply become a part of something else. That doesn’t shake things up.

It’s logical to think the next big disruptor in mobile will come from one of the big four: Apple, Google, Microsoft or Amazon. They collectively have the biggest stroke in the mobile space and spend enough to give us the Next Big Thing. The problem is, nothing they are working on that we know about is truly different.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the next disruptor in mobile is in healthcare. This would impact the mobile segment while having a profound affect on society. That would certainly shake things up. The big players in mobile are already scrambling to bring personal health monitoring to mobile, but to really disrupt things it will require bringing advanced functions to healthcare providers in addition to the personal stuff.

Mobile healthcare is already blooming but it’s missing a crucial piece on the patient side to make it all work seamlessly. Bringing healthcare providers directly to patients, globally and no matter the distance, would be a wonder to behold. I hope the next disruptor in mobile is able to do that.

Of course, the big players in mobile are doing things behind closed doors so maybe we’ll be surprised. Perhaps a new gadget and/or functionality will blow us away, and shake up the mobile space. It’s hard to imagine what it might be without hints from inside. Perhaps someone will leave a disruptor in a bar.

See also:

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft

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  • Never has been a next big thing

    If you really look at the history, a smartphone is just a evolution of a PDA which is just an evolution of pad and paper. A tablet is just a bigger smartphone. Wearables have shown no traction as past attempts predicted. The biggest advanced in healthcare is already out there with DNA testing to determine likelihood of getting diseases which allows focusing detection on those areas. The past has always been family history which is very inaccurate.
    Buster Friendly
  • Perhaps the next big thing in mobiles

    will be true competitive pricing for access using mobile devices! As it is now, we're pretty much at the whims of the few providers of mobile broadband. If, as some claim, internet access is some sort of "human right", then the prices for that basic necessity need to be reflected in the cost to the user. That may take government regulation, in much the same way governments regulate water, sewage and other utilities.
    • What would you consider competetive?

      I have four carrier options. I pay $50/month for T-Mobile. Obviously it's not a human right as rights cannot create obligations on others.
      Buster Friendly
  • A couple of things....

    I think the next "disruptor" is going to be a product designed for the eyes. I know Google Glass hasn't really disrupted anything yet (at a mass consumer level), but this potential wearable tech is still at the "conception" stage. Whatever company can perfect this technology to the point where it's physical presence is either invisible or faint, will see it's product take off.

    I don't think Microsoft will be the developer of the next "disruptor," simply because of their poor track record of innovation at the cutting edge level. They will, of course, make a very good product which would be a renovation of an existing competitor's product,...but they will never come up with something first. Also, the Microsoft brand has always been associated with "work" and not consumer-level ecosystem. Without an ecosystem, Microsoft will never be able to compete at this space. I think people can expect the innovation to come from Google (and their partners), Apple, Amazon, and other parties not name Microsoft.
    • The thing to remember is ...

      ... as many folks on here like to remind everyone: Apple often didn't create anything new, they just found a way to make older products better. I'll give them a pass on the Apple I, since there really weren't many competitors at the time, and they were pretty much on the same timeline with them all. But the Mac was just an improved version of Xerox's test systems; the Powerbook wasn't the first laptop, but set the form factor that others then copied; the iPod was just an improved MP3 player; the iPhone was an improved smartphone; the iPad was just an improved tablet; etc.

      So, the fact that Google Glass hasn't yet taken off, just means that someone -- whether it's Apple, Google, MS, Amazon or some complete unknown -- hasn't managed to get it quite right yet.

      I tend to think that "wearables" will be the next "big thing" ... but not as watches. Maybe as glasses, which would be great for me, since I already wear glasses daily and it wouldn't require a change in behavior but would provide potentially huge benefits. And folks who don't wear glasses often do wear sunglasses ....

      I still see two things as the truest next big things, though: voice commands (like they use in Star Trek TNG) and cybernetic implants (I prefer to think of the Six Million Dollar Man than the Borg ... but both work).

      Voice command would provide the ultimate interface to a machine, as it does on STTNG -- though they have keyboards (of sorts) for times when one might be more efficient.

      And cybernetic implants could provide all sorts of enhancements -- improved vision (like Steve Austin) but with the ability to record what's viewed; same for hearing (Jamie Sommers/Bionic Woman); additional memory capacity (Johnny Mnemonic?); or interfaces to connect to virtual environments (The Matrix).

      Mind you, I'm not a big fan of some of the potential pitfalls of cybernetic implants. But they could provide a seemless interface between man and machine. Maybe we've all seen too many sci-fi films to be comfortable going that far with things. But Google Glass' limited success suggests otherwise.
  • misleading title

    The headline here “The next disruptor in mobile technology" of invitation to learn something new is very misleading.
    What a non-informative article
  • James - Are You Alright

    That opening picture (ICU-Blogger) is most concerning - are you alright?

    As far as mobile healthcare - that could be an amazing disruptor and enabler at the same time. That is why I think Apple has been so hard at work with Healthkit. Out insurance administrator has started a call in "nurse" based program for responding to everyday illnesses, such as sore throats, fevers, flu-like symptoms. Just think how enabling that would be with biofeedback from your smartwatch/smarphone, and even an online consult with a physician. With clinics and emergency rooms flooded with patients, this could be a relief valve for an overworked and understaffed medical industry.
    • That's from 3 years ago

      After an accident. Thanks for asking.
  • The next disruptor in mobile tech MUST be universal in scope.

    By universal, I mean that this new technology MUST function on any major hardware/software platform currently in existence. Or, put another way, this device MUST be useable to consumers who's primary ecosystem is different from manufacturer of this new technology.

    In the latest blog posting from "The Horned One", the Macalope not only references the Huston Astros but also casually states an almost "throw away" comment that has profound implications regarding this topic.

    To quote, in part, "Well, that’s as may be, assuming you’re right that this Apple watch that doesn’t exist yet only works with iOS ...". And please note the key implication is that the iWatch could work with other operating system platforms. Also recall that the iPod and the iPhone could be used by any consumer and thus was in compliance with the criteria of being "universal" in scope.

    Specifically, what if the rumored iWatch could be shipped with functional software that allowed the iWatch to display it's information on Android and Windows devices?

    The implications for such a development are staggering - in terms of being universally accepted by consumers.
  • I thought...

    disruptors were outlawed by the United Federation of Planets for being barbaric weapons? :-)
    • There are probably plenty on the black market.

      Just like cloaking devices. The most dangerous thing about a cloaker is if you forget to turn it off before you put it down, and forget where it is, you may trip over it later.
  • the real disruption

    is happening in the cloud with instant access to data and services from any location on any device. Personal assistance from the likes of Siri and Cortana are advancing rapidly as is translation services. Think of Moores law for the cloud and where that will lead
    • I agree ...

      .... the cloud has proved (and will continue to prove) much more disruptive than most people thought.

      Initially talked up by providers (who saw a quick buck in renting out hard disc space). it has already proved much more useful, much more quickly than expected ... and much more cost effective.

      Chromebook was dying until the second model coincided with cloud uptake.

      Windows got a new lease of life when Microsoft realised they could be flexible without reducing their margins (Praise Be for enterprise spending - Microsoft-Loyal IT managers spending other people's money)

      In the real world, CCTV security is being revolutionised by removing records from tampering and deletion

      And there's much more to come; the Internet of Things might actually happen!

      Makes 3D printing look like a Lego Afternoon!
  • New e-ink screens

    I hope the next big disruptor for mobile (phones, tablets and laptops) is a e-ink screen with fast refresh rate. The battery consumption would be quite low and it would be possible to use them in bright sun light.
    • A GodSend

      Somewhere I read that an OEM had designed a smartphone with an e-Ink display on the backside for all normal data viewing (notifications, dialing, time, calendar, basically anything text based) with the front LCD for surfing and truly color-worthy tasks. The battery saving value of this design is inestimable; much less the TRUE outdoor viewing functionality.
  • Modular Phones Might Be the Next Big Thing

    Google, with the help of Darpa Engineers, is developing a modular phone named project Ara. Modular Phones have been attempted in the past but have failed. Google on the other hand will likely succeed since it has a good track record for disruption when it starts with low priced products for consumers and has enough brand strength to get the public to test out a new low cost good. Chromecast for example is still a big success and just keeps getting better. Android is clearly a big winner too. Google Fiber is beloved by those who have access. Since Ara is supposed to come out with a basic model sold for $50 it should hit the right price point for early on adoption.

    The smart phone with its app store has allowed the phone and tablet to replace numerous other hardware devices consumers so often used, but smart phones are still limited in their capabilities. The modular phone will be a simple way to enhance those capabilities with the addition of blocks you just slide in. Its as simple as SD cards. Enhanced cameras, batteries, enhanced speakers, additional memory, and biometric scanning will likely be the initial blocks that are most purchased and used. It will be interesting to see how the ecosystem evolves overtime.

    If the modular phone gains traction on with the public it will bring on the next disruptive age, but if it turns out to be a dud then my next bet would be either drones or self-driving cars as the devices which start a new disruptive movement in the US and abroad.
  • How about a ring?

    I have forgotten the author and title, but in a time travel novel I read about a decade ago, a character from the future wore a ring with a computer in it, that accepted voice queries and projected images from a built in laser on any convenient surface. The character called the ring computer Katie ... KT ... Knuckle Top!
  • Disruption is all around us

    The accelerating pace of tech innovation is enabling disruptions all around us, so it's often hard to pick just one thing that will stand out, or one time-period to examine. If I were to try, I think I'd look at the eventual blending of science and technology (INFO + BIO + NANO + NEURO).

  • I'd like a second brain.

    One that remembers things better than I do and can be called upon to store and recall information by mentally asking for it. Remember this face and name. Remember my appointments. Remember this entire document and recall any part of it verbatim. That sort of thing can be done now but I want this as an implant that takes inputs from me and stores the information more efficiently.
  • Untraceable, encryption-tunneled mesh networked mobile devices will

    ...turn society upside down. With the advent of open sourced mobile hardware/software (in the beginning stages now), the governments & corporations of the world will find the "client/server/administrator/NSA" model slipping away from them. There will need to be improvements in access speed/bandwidth capacity, and low-flying access points in remote areas, but those will come. When they do, the "badlands" will ride underneath/behind/beside normal traffic and will be untraceable, because mesh devices will not keep logs, and their caches will be constantly overwritten.

    All this will be good news/bad news. Overall, the future is definitely not going to be boring!