Today media and information networks are full of news and speculation about the discovery today of a terror plot to destroy airliners in flight. The reaction in the UK includes a ban on carrying laptops, digital players and mobile phones onto planes.
Dave Snowden and I are thinking about the ongoing evolution of on-demand applications such as WebEx and SalesForce.com. So while the ban may prove to be an overreaction, it serves to make a number of important points about the development of on-demand applications.
Suppose the ban stands-that knowledge workers can only travel with portable electronics checked in their luggage. While some businesses might be willing to risk the loss of hardware worth a few thousand dollars, many will realize they are also risking access to information and intelligence-whether stored on the hard drive or accessible on servers through the passwords stored on the had drive-potentially worth millions or even billions of dollars in the wrong hands.
Such a scenario would certainly mean a boon for SaaS companies providing online productivity. On one hand, many business travelers would be forced to leave their own computers behind and access their applications, files and data the old fashioned way, from dumb terminals. Alternatively, many knowledge workers would skip the trip altogether, creating even more demand for on-demand applications that facilitate virtual collaboration.
Of course, this is just one scenario in an increasingly insecure world. International collaboration is also threatened by cyber-terrorism. More aggressive threats to information security could severely restrict the ability to access behind-the-firewall data and services, limiting the ability of on-demand services to maintain productivity.
We're not trying to keep people up at night, just to make a point: Innovation can be disrupted as well as disruptive. Businesses think their product and marketing strategies determine success or failure, but almost never consider how many ways that markets can suddenly appear or disappear through events well beyond their ability to control or even predict their own destinies.