Dell and HP weren\’t going to pioneer a $400 laptop, because they were already selling laptops for $1,000. Why mess with a good thing? MSI had no laptop business at all, and Asustek had only a small business selling full-price machines under its own brand, mostly in Asia and Europe. Since the Taiwanese weren\’t addicted to selling SUV-class computers, they could swoop in like Honda with smaller, more efficient models. They also knew how to design on the cheap after years of producing motherboards with excruciatingly tiny margins.
In The Innovator\’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen famously argued that true breakthroughs almost always come from upstarts, since profitable firms rarely want to upend their business models. "Netbooks are a classic Christensenian disruptive innovation for the PC industry," says Willy Shih, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied both Quanta\’s work on the One Laptop per Child project and Asustek\’s development of the netbook.
Those gales of creative destruction tend not to come from hte large market incumbents. Which, of course, is why continually protecting such large market incumbents is a very bad idea indeed.