“Gradually, then suddenly.” That’s how Hemingway described the ill fortune of a bankrupt in The Sun also Rises. It should probably be required reading for any incumbent in a digitally disruptable market. But who has time to read a book these days — or even a Kindle? Instead, here are three charts that tell a compelling story with an inescapable conclusion.

Chart One plots the decline of analogue photographs (and the film manufacturing industry they sustained). In the year 2000 — at the very height of dotcom 1.0 hysteria — over 80 billion analogue photographs were taken around the world.

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(Image source: Overgram)

By 2011, it had fallen to four billion — and then Instagram arrived.

Chart Two from McKinsey & Company describes the collapse of print advertising, and the US CD-ROM music market. The music sector, having undergone two decades of disruption, looks like it is about to enter another period of upheaval fuelled by services like Pandora and Spotify. Meanwhile the newspaper industry, which has already lost 70 per cent of its revenue, stands to lose another 70 per cent of the little that remains before its eyeballs align with its share of ad budgets.

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(Image source: McKinsey & Company)

Chart Three maps the demise of Microsoft’s desktop operating system monopoly. Having navigated dotcom 1.0 successfully (apparently), and seen off the challenge of Netscape in the early days of the web through a combination of agility and illegality, Microsoft spent the next decade missing every trick. With the emergence of smartphones — first Apple’s iPhone running on iOS and then Android’s extraordinary rise to market leadership — the days when Redmond controlled the operating environment of almost every technology consumer in the world experienced a sudden and brutal reversal.

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This is how it happens: gradually, then suddenly.

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