AGB2009: technological disintermediation

This part of the AGB2009 series (see the presentation)
AGB2009: technological disintermediation


Technology and tecnological innovation are not anymore what they used to be.

In the past, technology implied capital investment: factories, sites, etc.

But when product replacement takes the place of product repair, you start removing the need for effective capital investment: any small company can “outsource” to third parties parts of its production.

Or, even further- some of the more advanced users can take off-the-shelf components and innovate products, as it happened few years ago with a robodog from an Asian company.

The reaction at the time? Instead of welcoming the birth of a new promotion channel (the users), the company went the legal way, to assert its own control not only on the product- but on how customers can use its products.

Not only in software- or computer-based products, also in other consumer appliances the rush to “outsource” production to specialized parts producers created a thriving fan-based “grey” economy.


Most of the publications on the “new” or “soft” economy talk only about the positive side-effects of this “crowdsourcing” of innovation, but..

In the past, user-generated innovations required skills, or money, or both, e.g. in “tuning” the engine of you car.

Nowadays, with more and more products assembled with standardized parts, you just need to be able to find a browser to find any kind of innovation- lowering the barrier to entry.

Somebody using just online information and online suppliers of components and services could assemble a completely new product.

And sell it using a website based in a different jurisdiction, having a “maquilladora” set in a developing country to create new products, delivered directly to the customer.

The contribution from the new “entrepreneur”? Maybe just software download by the “customer” from a third-country website, to “activate” the new product.

Read again.

If you notice: just a simple “tweaking” of an existing product, maybe adding or replacing few components and adding new software, can generate a direct delivery that bypasses rules, regulations, customs, safety rules, consumer and data protection.

What should be the new regulatory framework? Which is the applicable jurisdiction? How do you evolve the intellectual property rights legislation?


For this article, not really a bibliography, but a “mini-library”.

Just pick up the cases and consequences that fit your own answers to the questions listed above.

Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, “Wikinomics”, 2008, Atlantic Books
a collection of case studies
James Harkin, “Cyburbia”, 2009 Little, Brown
the yin and yang of the new media
Jeff Howe, “Crowdsourcing”, 2008 Random House
when big companies shop for ideas and innovation outside their corporate walls
Henry Jenkins, “Convergence culture”, 2008, New York University Press
how the fan-based economy and Internet changed the way the entertainment industry works

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