Big Thinkers and Disruptive Technologies

493px-Disruptive technology WikiWorldI sat in on CES SuperSession titled “Big Thinkers and Disruptive Technologies.” Panelists included representatives from Nettwerk Music, Facebook, HP, Zoran Corp. and Sonic Solutions. The panel focused on each participant’s definition of disruptive technology and predictions for new disruptions in their respective industries. Read on for summaries and highlights from each panelist.

Nettwerk Music Group
A well known disruptor in the record business, Nettwerk Music CEO, Terry McBride elicited some gasps and whispered conversation from the audience with his contrarian views on the music business and DRM. McBride called for the liberation of digital music, removing the digital locks and all DRM constraints from the business. He spoke of the success one of his artist’s, Barenaked Ladies, is having by working with Nettwerk to embrace alternate forms of marketing and distribution: releasing DRM free music, distributing new releases in a variety of formats (CD, ringtone, USB) and recording live shows to USB and selling to attendees as they walk out the door at the end of the show. Through these alternate forms, McBride predicted Barenaked Ladies generated 2007 revenues equivalent to selling 5 million albums by traditional means.

Owen Van Natta, next talked about the power of open source computing as it relates to social networking and particularly the growth of his company, Facebook. The disruptive nature of “people powered software” is yielding more benefit and power to Facebook’s offering and end users than traditional means of software development. Rapid iteration among an open network of developers and speed to market led to tighter product and accelerated release cycles. As social networking integrates into more aspects of everyday computing, Van Natta called for more focus on securing and validating people’s online identities and the content users are publishing across the internet.

HP Chief Strategy and Tech Officer, Shane Robison, found the move to on demand content to be the most disruptive force he’s working with. Consumers are becoming accustomed to on demand services, software and entertainment thereby circumventing many traditional players in the supply chain. Publishers, content creators, distributors and affiliates are all retooling to stay relevant in the on demand environment. This linked directly with Robison’s focus on connected services within HP; connecting users to services no matter what or how many devices they use.

Zoran Corporation
Dr. Levy Gerzberg, of Zoran Corp., said disruptive technology is defined by the “drastic and positive impacts revolutionary technology makes on peoples lives.” He described a number of quickly evolving disruptions we’re likely to see in a variety of sectors over the next couple years, including: consumer medical devices such as an ingestible pill that transmits images via RF from within the body, continued growth in processing speed compensating for short falls in optics and other hardware.

Sonic Solutions
The final panelist, Dave Habiger, Prez and CEO of Sonic Solutions, provided some Hollywood perspective for the forum. He too found on demand services and entertainment to be the most disruptive force in Sonic’s professional and consumer content authoring business. As his firm is a key component within the film industry supply chain they are shifting their focus to match the shift in user’s consumption of media. In addition to building distribution channels across pc, mobile and set-top boxes, he spoke of on demand DVD production and questioned consumer perception of cloud-based service models. He left us with a couple questions to ponder: Will consumers be comfortable with cloud-based ownership of their films and music or will they still need physical media like DVD’s and CD’s? For consumers, what role will bandwidth play in on demand use of media stored in the cloud?