It is a well known fact that companies that are the market leaders in one technology wave fail to catch on to the next wave. Usually these shifts happen with the advent of new disruptive technologies. Take the example of companies like Lotus, Word perfect, Apple, DEC, Ingres, and SCO to name a few. Every one of these companies failed to make the required changes to embrace the disruptive and discontinuous change.
Intel is the current Market Leader with Micro processor technology. Intel as a company has been doing a lot of thinking and investment in the area of “what is the next thing after semi-conductors? Can a multi-billion dollar semiconductor industry survive if a new discovery revolutionizes the whole computing industry?”
A Quantum Computer could solve a problem in few months that would take millions of years for a conventional computer. Using the principles of quantum dots, Quantum physics describes the special rules that apply to atoms and subatomic particles. One principle is that when you observe a particle, you change it. If a particle can be in one of two states, for example "up" or "down," it only settles on one state when you look at it. Before you look at it, it can be in both states at the same time. Conventional computers process information as "bits."
A bit can be a one or a zero. A string of eight bits can represent a single number from zero (00000000) to 255 (11111111). In a quantum computer, bits can be both one and zero at the same time. A string of eight bits can therefore represent all of the numbers between zero and 255 at the same time. (Source: Science daily)
Think of using atoms to manage states instead of transistors in a semi-conductor chip. This will completely revolutionize the way we have known about computers, all the billions of dollars invested in various manufacturing plants across the globe will be rendered almost useless and Intel the market leader in microprocessors will have to find something else to do.
Biological computing may be the next big threat to the whole silicon industry. You could possibly use biological particles like bacteria and viruses to control your state and use billions of them in a space that can only fit 1000 transistor today. Biological particles will not have the problems of heat, transmission and power that we have today, the system designed today can become more powerful tomorrow when the bacteria or virus replicate. All this completely changes the way we use silicon, the systems designed with bio-chips may be millions of times faster than the silicon based, there will be simply no match with the computing power. It is like using diodes instead of semi-conductors to manufacture PCs.