In a 1995 Harvard Business Review article, Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen presented an analysis of disruptive technologies that still resonates more than a decade after its publication.1 The relevance of their work is especially remarkable given the recent successes of open source (OS) technologies. This article attempts to update Bower and Christensen's arguments to include the impact of the commercial open source (COS) business model, wherein for-profit companies support, enhance, integrate and indemnify OS software using various licensing options. Our focus is on business intelligence (COSBI), drawing on experiences with the two major platform vendors, Pentaho and JasperSoft, who have demonstrated early success in the marketplace.
For Bower and Christensen, the differences between "disruptive" and "sustaining" technologies revolve on two major axes: 1) disruptive technologies address a market that is not very attractive to the mainstream or "sustaining" vendors, often because of unappealing growth or financial characteristics; 2) sustaining technologies concentrate on existing customer needs, which may ultimately stifle innovation. In addition, if both sustaining and disruptive technology firms are enhancing product performance at trajectories ahead of market demand, disruptors with early success have a better opportunity to invade established markets.
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