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Chapter One The Land of Oz
At the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and Toto are caught up inside a tornado, swept away from their mundane world of Kansas, and deposited into the marvelous land of Oz. This miraculous form of ascension is also reenacted from time to time on our own public stock exchanges.
Consider the following:
*More recently, Cisco Systems and Bay Networks have appeared out of nowhere to become billion-dollar companies—leaders, respectively, in the network router and the network hub markets. We didn't even know what routers and hubs were until just a few years ago.
Such are the market forces generated by discontinuous innovations, or what more recently have been termed paradigm shifts. These shifts begin with the appearance of a new category of product that incorporates breakthrough technology enabling unprecedented benefits. It is immediately proposed as the natural replacement for a whole class of infrastructure, winning early converts and enthusiastic predictions of a new world order. But the market is a conservative institution, and it presses back against the new changes, preferring to stay with the status quo. For a long time, although much is written about the new paradigm, little of economic significance happens. Indeed, sometimes the innovation is never embraced, falling back into some primordial entrepreneurial soup, as did artificial intelligence in the 1980s and pen-based computing in the early 1990s. But in many other cases there comes a flash point of change when the entire marketplace, under the pressure of continually escalating disequilibrium in price/performance, shifts its allegiance from the old architecture to the new.
This sequence of events unleashes a vortex of market demand. Infrastructure, to be useful, must be standard and global, so once the market moves to switch out the old for the new, it wants to complete this transition as rapidly as possible. All the pent-up interest in the product is thus converted into a massive purchasing binge, causing demand to vastly outstrip supply. Companies grow at hypergrowth rates, with billions of dollars of revenue seeming to appear from out of nowhere.
We have seen this happen again and again in our own lives. Take communications. After the better part of a century being content with letters, telegrams, and telephones, we have in the past thirty years adopted touch-tone phones, direct-dial long distance, Federal Express, answering machines, fax machines, voice mail, e-mail, and now Internet addresses. In every case, until a certain mass was reached, we didn't really need to convert. But as soon as it was, it became unacceptable not to participate. As members of a market, our behavior is invariable: we move as a herd, we mill and mill and mill around, and then all of a sudden we stampede. And that is what creates the tornado.
Nowhere has the tornado touched down more often in the past quarter-century than in the computer and electronics industry. In the domain of business computing, it began with the proliferation of the IBM mainframe, which won worldwide support as the first major computing infrastructure standard. Then, in the space of less than a decade beginning in the late 1970s, three new architectures arose to challenge and displace that paradigm: the minicomputer, the personal computer, and the technical workstation, and we came to know a whole new set of companies, including DEC, HP, Sun, Apollo, Compaq, Intel, and Microsoft. In conjunction with these three architectures came a communications networking paradigm shift that moved from the centralized hub-and-spokes approach of mainframe-centric computing to the decentralized world of Local Area Networks interconnected via Wide Area Networks, and we met companies like 3-Com, Novell, Cisco, and Bay Networks. And concurrent with both these shifts, virtually all of our software, from the underlying operating systems to the databases, to the applications and the tools that build them, was overthrown or reworked, in most cases more than once, driving companies like Oracle, Sybase, Lotus, Ashton-Tate, and WordPerfect into our consciousness.
Yet during this same period we still bought most of our cars from General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. And we flew United or American or Delta. And we drank Coke or Pepsi or Dr. Pepper. While some sectors, in other words, were generating whole industries out of thin air, creating hordes of market leaders from early unknowns, others continued along relatively familiar paths—because they did not introduce discontinuity into their infrastructure paradigms. The car you drive today is not materially different from one driven forty years ago. Ditto for the air transportation and the soft drinks. By contrast, high tech's insistence on repeatedly swapping out all its infrastructure is exceptionally expensive, and more than one corporation has challenged the whole rationale behind this behavior. But there is a dynamic in operation that gives people little choice. All computing is built atop an underpinning of semiconductor-based integrated circuits, which has the remarkable property of dramatically increasing its price/performance far faster than anything else in the history of our economy. In the 1970s, the rate was already an astounding order of magnitude every ten years. In the 1980s it decreased to an order of magnitude every seven years. In the middle of the 1990s the time has compressed to three and a half years. By the end of the decade microprocessor-based systems will increase ten times in power every 2.5 years. And there is no foreseeable end in sight.
This phenomenon has an extraordinarily destabilizing effect on every industry within the high-tech sector. All high-tech products ultimately take their value from software, and the software written at any point in time must work within the power constraints of the current or soon-to-be-shipped hardware. But after only a few short years, another order of magnitude of additional power has come on the scene, making these same design constraints obsolete. New products, designed to the new performance vectors, incorporate software that simply blows away the old reference points. Their new capability translates into the kind of competitive advantages that stimulate virtually any business customer—better communications, faster time to market, more efficient transaction processing, deeper understanding of their customers, earlier detection of trends. You name it, it now appears within reach.
To be sure, nobody currently enjoying success with their old paradigm really wants to change. Everybody agrees that there is already too much cycling and recycling of high-tech products, and that we would be better served if we could just take a brief time out and catch our breath. But all the while the semiconductor engine keeps rumbling beneath our feet, and at some point the attraction of dramatically escalated capabilities simply overwhelms the inclination not to change, and despite everyone's best intentions, yet another tornado gets under way.
Each one of these changes generates massive new influxes of spending, as if we were to build up and then tear down our cities over and over again. These new pools of capital, in turn, create some of the fiercest economic competition on the planet, in part because winning or losing is compressed into such a short span of time. And with each revolution, it seems, it is not the old guard but rather a whole new set of players who are swept into prominence, redrawing the boundaries of the high-tech marketplace and realigning the power structures that dominate it.
We're Not in Kansas Anymore
Posted June 16, 2001
Inside the Tornado is the 1995 sequel to the 1991 book, Crossing the Chasm. Inside the Tornado repeats the arguments of Crossing the Chasm, and adds three new stages of how to manage a business during the lifecycle of a technology. While Crossing the Chasm was primarily about marketing with some strategy emphasis, this book reverses the emphasis. I recommend the 1999 paperback version because it contains a new introduction that serves better as a helpful afterword to the book, as Mr. Moore suggests, in updating it for the Internet. In Crossing the Chasm, Mr. Moore successfully argues that new technologies first attract customers who love technology, and will try anything. If you succeed with that group, you will next attract visionary customers who will want to use the technology to steal a march on their competitors. After that comes the chasm, getting into broad acceptance. Many technologies never make it. The method to cross is described in Inside the Tornade as the bowling alley. You pick a few key segments that may reflect the needs of other segments. By providing custom solutions for these segments, you create a ricochet effect into striking good solutions for other niches. The analogy is to the way that after the bowling ball first hits the one and three pins (for right handers) and then continues on to take out the five pin, those three pins hit the pins behind them, which in turn go backward to take out the pins in the final row, until you have a strike. The tornado is the period of mass market acceptance. This is when there is a lot of demand as everyone who decides about infrastructure adopts the new standard simultaneously. You have to standardize, get your costs down, and ship at low prices. Your strategy is just the opposite of the bowling alley period. The metaphor here is to the tornado in the Wizard of Oz that sweeps Dorothy, Toto, and her house from Kansas to Oz. Then comes Main Street, when the market demand is now filled and you are looking at 'aftermarket development, when the base infrastructure has been deployed and the goal now is to flesh out its potential.' You once again focus on segments, and create custom solutions. The final period is End of Life, when 'wholly new paradigms come to market and supplant the leaders who themselves had only just arrived.' In essence, you start a new technology cycle. The best companies (like Intel) will do this to themselves. The book also describes the importance of becoming the gorilla who will have about 50 percent market share and earn 75-80 percent of industry profits as a result of dominating the tornado period. Gorillas are made during the tornado. Oracle is described as an example. During the bowling alley your company needs to be very good at product leadership and customer intimacy, during the tornado you need to shift to product leadership combined with operational excellence, and in Main Street the focus is on operational excellence and customer intimacy. This thinking will remind you of the book, The Discipline of Market Leaders, and the work of Dr. Adizes. Most companies will not be agile enough to make these transitions. Examples abound in the book. Apple's example will hit home with you, I'm sure. As to the Internet, things are different. In the original book, the Internet is only mentioned three times. In the introduction here, Mr. Moore says that the 'Internet market tornado, however, is so powerful that it has sucked all four models into its vortex.' Companies are succeeding simultaneously in different parts of the Internet space at the same time with each of the strategies outlined here. In the future, I think technologies will evolve more like the Internet has. During these evolutions, I think that business model discontinuities will be more important than technology discontinuities. While you can only put technology discontinuities in during parts of the cycle (never during the tornado), business model shifts can occurWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.