Four Disruptive Technologies for 2009


We’re nearing the end of the year, and now happens to be a good time to single out some of the disruptive technologies that are likely to affect web workers next year. 2009 is slated to bring a few very major connectivity technologies that have been years in the making, mired in the standardization process, to fruition. It also promises to bring some surprises from the world of open source into the spotlight.

Here are four disruptive technologies that could have a big impact on how you work.

USB 3.0. A few months ago, I wrote about the status and the promise of the new, proposed Universal Serial Bus 3.0 specification. This week, at the USB Superspeed Developers Conference in San Jose, the USB Implementers Group delivered the specification, and the race is going to be on to deliver products.

USB 3.0 promises mighty speed increases for data transfer via USB ports–up to ten times faster. According to speakers at the conference, a flash drive based on USB 3.0 can move a gigabyte of data to a host device in 3.3 seconds, compared to 33 seconds with USB 2.0. Digital camera-based photo transfers via USB, external storage drives, and many other common things will see big boosts here. I expect quite a few products to arrive in the second half of next year.

802.11n. Many of us already use Draft-n Wi-Fi technology, but the ratification of the 802.11n standard, expected toward the end of next year, will be when many businesses standardize on it, and will lead many new products to market. If you’re still using 802.11g, 802.11n is far faster. GigaOm also did an eyebrow-raising piece recently on a dual 802.11n device from Proxim Wireless that purportedly transmits data at speeds of over 300Mbps, almost seven times faster than current wireless networks.

Android and Linux phones. Amid all the hubbub about the T-Mobile G1 phone, which runs the open source Android operating system from Google, the fact that Android is version 1.0 technology gets lost. I expect the Android phones to become much slicker next year, and applications to proliferate online, giving the iPhone a real run for its money. If Google is smart, they’ll subsidize some of this.

Meanwhile, phones based on the Linux-based LiMo platform will get better, and come in more flavors. The LiMo Foundation has many big backers, and some of these phones should be inexpensive and competitive as well.

Instant-On computing. Many of the netbooks, and some laptops, are already offering Linux-based Instant-On features, mostly based on SplashTop’s technology.  Meanwhile, Phoenix Technologies–a long-standing player in the BIOS technology world, is proliferating the trend outside of the Linux realm, and Dell is buying in with some of its laptops. These features are very convenient for when you want do something like check the weather at your destination just before you leave for a flight. You don’t have to wait for a system boot, which Windows users especially appreciate. There will be much more of this next year.

Image credit: Flickr user Bloomsberries.



@Samuel: I agree that these are all great new technologies with potential to change the way people work. The problem is that the meme “disruptive technology” has a very specific meaning that describes the disruption of an incumbent competitor, not someone’s workflow; it has nothing to do with the products you’re describing.

It was coined by a business school professor to describe technologies that attacked established competitors obliquely, by focusing on lower-end customers that the incumbent had ignored.

The products in this article are the kinds of things that the disruptive product theory specifically calls out as contrary examples; innovations that are great, but “sustaining.”

So — I enjoy the site, read it every day, and I’m not trying to be a pest; I just believe that to use this specific term for other things really dilutes the meaning.

See the wikipedia entry (linked above) for a better description than I can provide.


Hey all!

Meh, Instant on a disruptive technology? It was available years ago for windows via a project called ‘Ready On’. Sounds like someone ported it to Linux. It didn’t make that big of a splash on the largest personal pc platform I have low expectations for ‘Instant On’.


yeah, these are upgrades. Far from disruptive. Will there be a disruptive technology in 2009 that promises to cut costs during the present period of recession?

Eamon Walshe

i’ve been using Instant-On Computing for almost three years – ever since I purchased my first MacBook Pro.


802.11n : I dont think this is important for someone to use at home, this is very important in kinda large lans, eliminating the use of wires.

Iphone: I actually hate it, or more specifically, I hate the monopolitic approach of apple that I have to take everything I need through ITunes… that is why I find it useless, a great piece of technology that I cannot use!!
besides, I dont like beeing tied with a specific service provider (it it is great), I payed a lot for the phone and it is my right to use it anywhere…

Instant-on: I find it great!! the internet through cell phones is much more expansive.. at least where I live.

Android and Linux phones: if google played it correctly and opened the plateform enough to be used freely by everyone, they could win the mobile os war… and actually put IPhone out of the market!!

I generally think linux is a great platform, all it needs is some userfriendly interface (I mean more friendly)… like you can do anything without command line interface at all.


Instant-on: want to check the weather, that email from Fred, listen to a song? This is what your iPhone is already excellent for.

802.11n: great when you want to image your laptop over a wireless connection, but how many people have a pipe to the internet that big (or are likely to next year)? Also, what is the actual throughput after the overhead has been subtracted (I have no idea).

Android and Linux phones: I’m going to sound like an Apple fanboy as I type on my HP laptop, but why isn’t the iPhone included in this section rather than portrayed as some monolithic incumbent that will itself be disrupted (apart from the fact that it is already widely owned)?

finally, why do we always need these end of year lists!


@dave, I think they’re disruptive in terms of major changes they will bring in how people work. Yes, two of them are improved versions of existing technologies, but so was the commercial Internet. I define disruptive, at least in terms of our focus here, as a major shock to how people work.


A. Acevedo

If Firefox open source is any indication, the new open source technologies will be excellent. Regarding standardization, what do you think of an energy efficiency rating for software, that takes into account an estimation of the total amount of kilowatt-hours used to develop, and then use the application?


Upgrades yes…some time saving. But, surely the office slacker will abuse its intended use. The ‘instant on’ is the one I am looking at. Stay tuned.

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