Once again we have one of those debates raging that is taking a pop at the whole idea of disruptive innovation and once again it questions the whole predictability of it. We have the usual claims of "Is disruptive innovation dead wrong?" and shades of the Jill Lapore debate of 2014.
Alas, this won't stop because there are (at least) two different forms of disruption - one which can be anticipated and one which can't. The problem with the current debates on both sides is they treat disruptive innovation as if there is only one form.
Yes, business builds inertia. Yes, substitution occurs. Yes, the principles of disruptive innovation appear sound and Christensen looks right ... BUT ... and here's the catcha ... when we talk about disruption through product vs product substitution then we can't anticipate this change but when we talk about disruption through product to commodity (+utility) substitution then we can! We can do this because we have a pretty good understanding of how stuff evolves through demand and supply competition.
So, for example with the evolution of smartphones and a product to product substitution (i.e. involving a discontinuity with the past) such as Blackberry or Nokia vs the iPhone then we have no idea which way this would go. Any analysis is post event. It could have been Nokia or the iPhone that succeeded. No-one knew. Christensen didn't know. Just because he called the wrong side doesn't mean the concept of disruptive innovation is wrong. It isn't. It's just almost impossible to anticipate.
However, the smartphone is a value chain (which can be mapped) and it contains a component known as the operating system. The application of competition (supply and demand) means that this component will eventually evolve to a commodity, especially if someone drives it there with an open approach. Be wary of Geeks bearing gifts.
Hence with Android vs iOS then we already know the OS is becoming commodity, that Android is driving it there and we know that Android will dominate. In fact this has already happened but we knew this ages ago. We could anticipate this change and its effects and yes, eventually it means disruption of the past models and systems based upon it.
This will happen no matter how well Cook plays the supply chain, no matter how much people cheer for Apple. Competitive forces and the Red Queen effect are against Apple on this. They can hold out but eventually they'll end up adapting (i.e. Apple on Android) or they'll corner a niche space.
The principles behind disruptive innovation are sound in my view. However, the reason why we seem to be having these endless debates is this assumption that there is only one form. It's either got to be anticipatable (i.e. predictable to a certain degree) or not. Alas there's not one form, there never has been, there never will be. There are two forms - one you can anticipate and one you can't - and the ways in which you need to deal with both forms are different.
In the meantime, we will continue to hear this fairly pointless debate rage on with both sides giving examples and counters until someone starts to consider that the reason why disruptive innovation seems to show polar opposite characteristics of predictability is there's more than one form.
We've covered this many times before over the years, I sound like a stuck record and so I'll stop there.