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CES 2009:

The iPhone as a disruption? For tech execs, yes

Where consumers see convenience, tech companies see greater competition


Steve Marcus

Show attendees photograph a phone watch by LG Electronics during CES on Friday in Las Vegas. The phone features voice dialing, a touchscreen and text-to-speech technology. It is expected to be introduced in Europe in the second half of 2009.

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Beyond the Sun

Most wouldn’t see the iPhone as a disruption in their lives. But executives view new products like this as disruptive technology to their industry.

A panel of executives on Friday described disruptive technology as technology that has a long shelf life and pushes technology companies to re-evaluate their products. Their comments came during a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, who moderated the Big Thinkers and Disruptive Technologies session Friday afternoon, said the iPhone and netbooks both are disruptive technologies because they have created a pocket desktop for users and forced laptop makers to give buyers more for their money.

Bajarin was joined by Eli Harari, founder and chairman of SanDisk; Dr. Levy Gerzberg, president and chief executive officer of Zoran Corporation; Jason Young, chief executive officer of Ziff Davis Media (owners of PC Magazine); Ken Wirt, president of consumer marketing at Cisco; and Dave Haiberger, chief executive officer of Sonic Solutions.

Bajarin called Harari “the father of flash memory.” Harari said he’s watched the memory market develop over the past 35 years from 16 bits of memory to 64 gigabits in a single chip.

“Overall, I think flash is going to be disruptive, very much the center of portability,” Harari said.

Gerzberg, whose company produces integrated circuits and software products for digital audio and video compression applications, said the biggest challenge for the technology industry is making applications that are easy to use.

“Ease of use is a problem in the industry. Ease of use is often too late,” he said. “We are producing technology without the ease.”

Gerzberg said he believes the next disruptive technology will come from the medical field. He pulled from his pocket a pill with a built-in camera that can send an image from inside a patient's stomach.

“Disruptive technology is going to be around for a long time,” Gerzberg said.

Young said for media companies, disruption came with the introduction of the Internet. Content, advertising and contact with readers have dramatically changed the market since the adoption of the Web, Young said.

“The empowerment of the user to be part of the media equation has been really disruptive. The user has the ability to be a publisher himself or herself … the flip phone is one of the great examples. You have thousands of people walking around with video devices that they can upload,” Young said. “That changes the landscape.”

PC Magazine has gone strictly digital, making the publication only available online. Young said since he is part of a technology publication, readers will adapt well to the change.

Young also said the Internet has dramatically disrupted the market for advertisers. Advertisers can better target and monitor users, he said.

Networking company Cisco has introduced video conferencing at many of its locations. Wirt said since the introduction of video conferencing, company travel bills at Cisco have fallen 22 percent.

Wirt said this technology is disruptive to both the hotel and air travel markets since it allows companies to conference without travel.

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