The folks at Scripting News pointed me to an interesting article from Business Week, in which Peter Burrows interviews Clayton Christensen. Christensen is the Harvard prof most famous for his books and ideas on disruptive technologies. In this interview he discusses the dilemma that Apple has with high profit and market share from its proprietary Itunes and IPod products. He comments ”

“During the early stages of an industry, when the functionality and reliability of a product isn’t yet adequate to meet customer’s needs, a proprietary solution is almost always the right solution — because it allows you to knit all the pieces together in an optimized way. But once the technology matures and becomes good enough, industry standards emerge.”

He suggests that Apple needs to open up its technology in order to insure that it is incoprated by all as a standrd if they are to continue to hold their market share.

Applying this thinking to current LMS systems, makes me wonder if BlackBoard/WebCT doesn’t face the same dilemma. The emergence of systems like Moodle that easy allow Plug and Play insert of various modules coupled with the mergence of Personal Learning Envirinments that don’t use a central LMS, makes me think that the days of the large LMS systems may be much shorter than most of think today, when we see the market share they hold. Recently, I was told by a WebCT rep. that their solution to the host of new social software tools was to open their system to allow various plug ins. Good idea, but past record seems to prove that it is much easier to “promise this in the next release” than to actually open a system such that for example a module from Moodle or A-Tutor, could easily replace a similar tool in the WebCt suite.

Social software seems to be emerging as a very disruptive technology for educators on a number of levels!