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It takes a lot to shift the course of an industry. For every truly disruptive company, there are dozens that try and fail – and plenty of copycats that follow, but fall short of the new model.
Being disruptive doesn't always mean being first to the market with an idea. It's about executing it better than any competitor – and staying ahead of the curve from there.
So, which products and companies that have changed the way the world does business? Click ahead for the list!
By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 29 April 2011
Look for special coverage of the Wired Business Conference, Tuesday, May 3, on "Power Lunch" at 1pm ET on CNBC. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera will report from the event and will speak with key participants, including some of the tech world's most-watched leaders
While the Blackberry radically altered the way business people communicated with each other, the iPhone's mass market reach makes it a more disruptive device. The iPhone was more than just a phone and email device. It was the first truly portable computer.
The App Store, meanwhile, has brought about seismic changes in the video game world, while the standalone GPS industry seems to be teetering.
It started as just an online bookstore, but as Amazon has grown, it has proven a threat to the entire retail spectrum. By not having to worry about rent prices, the company can offer lower prices and remain extraordinarily profitable.
Even retail king Wal-Mart has felt the heat, launching a series of price wars beginning in 2009 (especially during the holidays) and becoming much more competitive in the online space.
While Sony and Microsoft followed the traditional path this console generation, Nintendo opted to roll the dice, ignoring graphical prowess and focusing on making games easy to play once again, by using a motion control device.
The bet worked. The Wii is not only a sales leader, its popularity has forced its competitors to incorporate motion control into their traditional machines. Traditional controllers aren't gathering dust just yet, but they're facing more competition than they have in years.
Blockbuster shrugged off Netflix when the company launched in 1997, convinced that people preferred the human touch when they rented films. Now the one-time retail giant has shrunk from 4,000 stores to plans for just 500.
Hollywood studios, meanwhile, are realizing that the company is once again changing the home entertainment market with its video streaming model – and are wary about its still-growing power. Its success has event spurred Apple and Amazon to invest heavily in video streaming.
The thought that the U.S. Postal Service would have to consider route cutbacks and closures was ludicrous 35 years ago. While Federal Express and UPS certainly have had an impact, it's email that's more to blame.
Hand-written letters that take days to deliver have long since been bypassed by nearly instant communication – assuming your note can stand out from the spam. (Junk mail, obviously, cannot be disrupted.)
Not too long ago, if you wanted to let friends know about an amusing anecdote or where you were headed, you'd pick up a phone.
Not anymore: Today, people's social lives revolve around these two sites. Facebook has become the de facto way of reconnecting with long lost friends and staying in touch with others, while Twitter has become the default method of letting people know where you are and what you're doing.
It began as just another search engine, but Google quickly became a commonly used verb for any sort of online information search.
It also quickly began to disrupt other fields, including email (offering then-unheard of amounts of online storage), software (challenging Microsoft's Office franchise), news (by offering easy access to stories for free) and advertising (with its incredibly lucrative AdWords program).
The Web has lured plenty of eyeballs away from traditional television, but no site has been more effective at that than YouTube. The average viewer – and there were 111 million in February - spends between 15-20 minutes per day watching the site – and it's looking to extend that, reportedly planning to add up to 20 'channels' with professionally produced content.
Newspapers used to make the bulk of their revenue from classified ads – a market that has dried up, thanks to this Web-based service that allows people and companies to sell their junk and post job openings for free.
It has become a key tool for real estate agents, as well. Traditional print media faces plenty of challenges these days, but Craig Newmark's creation is the one that has changed the industry the most.
Even after the deregulation of the airline industry, most carriers were pretty similar. By the late 1990s, though, Southwest was starting to impact the industry.
With its ticketless travel, low fares and signature humor, it changed how people flew. Similarly, JetBlue's focus on customer service in the early 2000s put pressure on airlines to compete on issues other than price.
Look for special coverage of the Wired Business Conference, Tuesday, May 3, on "Power Lunch" at 1pm ET on CNBC. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera will report from the event and will speak with key participants, including some of the tech world's most-watched leaders.