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Drupal 8, iOS 7, and Disruptive Innovation

I was recently struck by a story told to me by Tom Bogan, one of Acquia's board members and the board chairman at Citrix. Citrix has risen to become one of the most successful technology companies in the world. Tom says that the key to Citrix long term success has been its willingness to look for ways to "disrupt itself". Citrix often takes a critical look at its business, and looks for ways to innovate fast like a startup.

This process is called disruptive innovation, defined as "... an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology."

Disruptive innovation is exactly what has made Apple so successful. They are always looking for new ways to build massive new businesses, and aren't afraid to disrupt their own products and revenues to sustain growth. Examples include:

  • The iPhone, which disrupted the iPod.
  • The iPad, which disrupted desktop computers like the iMac and Macbook.

The Apple playbook is well understood, but difficult to duplicate. They create a new product category, iterate on the products in that category, perfect the vision, and then disrupt again when they see something bigger. Yesterday's release of iOS 7 shows again that Apple isn't afraid to disrupt itself. For Apple to remain competitive, it had to make big changes to iOS, as Android grows its market share and innovates quickly. I recently spent a few weeks with a Moto X, and it took every ounce of my Apple fanboy soul to resist its charms.

iOS 7 reaffirmed my commitment to Apple, not just because I happen to like the iOS 7 candy-store look, but also because I believe in Apple's willingness to disrupt itself. That gives me great confidence that Apple will remain a disruptive innovator over the long haul. And that's also what I greatly admire about the Drupal community. Like iOS 7, Drupal 8 is a massive release. Here are some of the big changes in Drupal 8:

  1. The Introduction of Symfony in Drupal 8 takes Drupal into the world of object oriented programming, and the benefits that come with it like code re-use, modularity, maintainability, and testability.
  2. Using the Spark project, Drupal 8 will support inline content editing, allowing content authors to publish content in-context of the site.
  3. Views allow users to organize and render content in a flexible way without having to write code.
  4. Interactions with content entities are supported via a REST interface.
  5. The process of building a multilingual website has been substantially improved in Drupal 8. It's easier to maintain languages and translate different parts of the website and site settings.

As Dries puts it "I really think we can say we've built the best CMS for enterprise systems. Best architecture, most modern design."

I believe that the willingness for the Drupal Community to disrupt itself is exactly why Drupal is the right platform for now and for the future. Sometimes change can be polarizing, but in the end disruptive innovation wins.

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