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Industrial economics and strategy: computing platforms

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1 Author(s)
Greenstein, Shane ; J.L. Kellogg Graduate Sch. of Manage., Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL, USA

To the uninitiated, and even the old hand, the computer industry is an intimidating agglomeration of firms, markets, and buyers, all changing quickly in response to the latest innovation or recently invented applications. Technological opportunities arise rapidly, altering the technical landscape more quickly than in any other industry. Established firms feel perpetually under siege, particularly when they compare their lot in life to that of other firms in other industries. The computer industry's structure seems caught between forces of inertia and change, with the latter having an upper hand. Change occurs in two broad places: technical frontiers and market relationships. As is often remarked, the menu changes quickly and often, but market relationships change less often. Why, in the face of a rapidly changing menu of choices, do buyers continue to make many of the same choices year after year! Why do the same firms and products seem to reappear in computing in spite of technical change! When changes to market relationships occur, what does it tell us about forces for stasis or change? One cannot hope to develop a comprehensive understanding of the long-run forces for either change or stasis in one article. Nevertheless, to help in that endeavor, I outline a few key concepts. Instead of examining what firms should do, I explain why things happen, the former being much more strategy-oriented. This will be accomplished by showing both historical and contemporary events.

Published in:

Micro, IEEE  (Volume:18 ,  Issue: 3 )