There's an article in the current issue of Wired called "The Good Enough Revolution" in which author Robert Capps describes how various low-tech solutions have unseated much more complex products. He gives an example of how Pure Digital's Flip video camera managed to beat industry giants Sony, Panasonic, and Canon by offering a simplistic product with low-quality 640-by-480-pixel video.
It didn't even have an optical zoom. But it was small (slightly bigger than a pack of smokes), inexpensive ($150, compared with $800 for a midpriced Sony), and so simple to operate—from recording to uploading—that pretty much anyone could figure it out in roughly 6.7 seconds.
Within a few months, Pure Digital could barely keep up with orders. Customers found that the Flip was the perfect way to get homebrew videos onto the suddenly flourishing YouTube, and the camera became a megahit, selling more than 1 million units in its first year.
In the course of a couple of years, the Flip family of video cameras have become the best-selling camcorder in the United States with 17 percent market share. (Pure Digital was acquired by Cisco earlier this year for $590 million.)
Pure Digital's business model is a classic example of what Clayton Christenson describes in his book "The Innovator's Solution" as serving the underserved. The company focused on providing basic functionality and ease-of-use to appeal to consumers who want to get results without the complexity or expense of a full-blown camcorder.
Capps goes on to describe how the music industry has been disrupted by the same phenomenon: MP3s trump other media in convenience, even though they are "inferior" when judged by sound quality. More important, this trend is continuing in other areas.