The term disruptive technology was first introduced by Clayton M. Christensen in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, which he coauthored with Joseph Bower. He elaborated on his theories in his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma. It refers to a process by which a long standing product, method or technology, is overtaken and eventually replaced by a new, and seemingly non-competitive introduction to the marketplace. It may be contrasted with "sustaining technology" which serves to improve a product.
According to Christensen, the disruptive technology starts by gaining a foothold in the low-end, and less demanding, part of the market, then moves up-market through performance improvements, and finally displaces an incumbent's product. Some well-known examples are, the displacement of traditional photography by digital photography, the displacement of traditional publishing by electronic publishing and the displacement of the vacuum tube by semiconductor technology.
In his next book, The Innovator's Solution, Christensen replaced the term "disruptive technology" with the term "disruptive innovation" and introduced a process of utilizing the principles of disruption when developing a product targeted toward an existing market. Christensen's theory is that, when certain principles are applied, the strategy or business model can be designed in a way that enhances the likelihood that a technology will create the disruptive impact in the targeted market.