Monday, July 29, 2013

Disruptive Technologies

I have been reading several articles regarding 'disruptive' technologies in various industries. Here are a few:

Newspapers: Free online content is not only impacting print editions but also online editions that have paywalls. There is also some difficulty in attracting advertisers to mobile devices. Consumers apparently don't pay attention to the ads on these devices.

Telecommunications: Verizon has refused to repair their legacy lines post-Hurricane Sandy. Cell phones are taking the place of these old technologies of copper wires and telephone poles.

Oil Refiners/Environmentalist: The 15% blend of ethanol (E-15) is cutting into retail gasoline refining. And environmentalist think too much acreage is being diverted for ethanol production. There is also a debate that E-15 may damage internal combustion engines.

Utilities: The electricity generation industry is panicking over the increasing use of solar power and federal subsidies that encourages solar power enterprises. They are also concerned about 'net metering.'
Industry spokesmen are becoming hysterical. They see an existential threat to the national grid.

Television: I am morphing into more content viewing via my Apple TV. Here's why, less and shorter commercials. You still need the cable provider, that's true, but 'disruptive' technologies like Aero are already here.

There will be much lobbying to thwart the progress of these 'disruptive' technologies. So stay tuned and watch which state and federal politicians advocate for the industries mentioned, especially the utilities and refiners. Newspapers have accepted the 'disruption' and are working on innovative ways to compete both on and off-line. Telecommunications is also less combative and offering their customers viable and economical alternatives.

It seems that the utilities in particular are strongly opposed to government subsidies to solar enterprises. But, we should note that Congress has for years protected the utility industry with both subsidies and tax advantages. State governors also have a tendency to appoint commissioners friendly towards utilities to state regulatory boards.

Some of these industries are already playing the "too big to fail deck". We, as a nation can't abide this internal war on innovation. There will be blood i.e. realignment of job skills, education needs some serious revamping and the old industries either will be pushed aside or adapt with more capital re-directed to R&D and less to dividends and executive bonuses.

As an aside, people wonder why large financial institutions are fined and do not have to admit guilt for insider trading and/or other criminal acts. People wonder why prosecutors only go after the 'little guy". Well, they are gun-shy after busting Enron. In that case there was serious collateral damage. Arthur Andersen, one of the 'big five' accounting firms, was indicted for its part in the scandal. The indictment was subsequently reversed, yet 30,000 employees lost their jobs. Not only did innocent Enron employees lose jobs and retirement investments but so did Arthur Andersen employees and who knows how many other innocents lost their jobs and retirement nest eggs? So this is one of card's that will be played in the industries 'too big to fail deck'. A recent exception is an indictment against the hedge fund SAC.

I have been using quotation marks (') around the word 'disruptive' because I think it an unfortunate choice to described innovation technology. I wonder if there are technologies sitting on corporate shelves somewhere that could have been developed years ago but were considered too 'disruptive' for the corporation's future?

'The times they are a-changin'.

Sources:

Newspapers: Newspaper Monopoly That Lost Its Grip

Telecommunications: After Hurricane Sandy, Verizon Takes Hostages

Oil Refining: Corn Ethanol Use In Gasoline Under Review

Utilities: On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities

Television: Spreading Disruption, Shaking Up Cable TV

Financial Services: Corporate Crime and 'Collateral' Damage
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