Waging a Standards War – Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy – Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian
Trigger warning: – tassonomia delle sfide commerciali – le armi per vincere – che fare quando si vince – che fare quando si perde
North versus South in railroad gauges, Edison versus Westinghouse in electricity, NBC versus CBS in color TV, Sony versus Matsushita in VCRs, the United States versus Japan in HDTV, 3Com versus Rockwell and Lucent in modems.
Note:LE GRANDI BATTAGLIE
When two new incompatible technologies struggle to become a de facto standard, we say that they are engaged in a standards war.
Take the CD technology, for instance. Sony and Philips adopted a discontinuity strategy: they openly licensed their CD patents …They were not in a battle with another new technology. They merely (!) had to convince consumers to take a leap and invest in a CD player …
Note:NON SEMPRE È GUERRA
CLASSIFICATION OF STANDARDS WARS
If both your technology and your rival’s technology are compatible with the older, established technology but incompatible with each other, we say the battle is one of rival evolutions.
between DVD and Divx
If your technology offers backward compatibility and your rival’s does not, we have evolution versus revolution.
Note:EVO VS REVO
battle between Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel in the late 1980s and early 1990s
if neither technology is backward-compatible we have rival revolutions.
contest between Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation
INFORMATION-AGE STANDARDS WARS
One war, that over AM stereo radio, was mutually destructive. Another war, cellular telephones, has led to the continued use of two incompatible technologies. The third battle, over 56k modems, was resolved through a standards agreement.
Note:TRE ESEMPI DI ESITO: DISTRUZIONE… CONVIVENZA… ACCORDO
KEY ASSETS IN NETWORK MARKETS
Your ability to successfully wage a standards war depends on your ownership of seven key assets: (1) control over an installed base of users, (2) intellectual property rights, (3) ability to innovate, (4) first-mover advantages, (5) manufacturing abilities, (6) strength in complements, and (7) brand name and reputation.
Note:7 ASSET PER VINCERE
TWO BASIC TACTICS IN STANDARDS WARS
The logic of preemption is straightforward: build an early lead, so positive feedback works for you and against your rival. The same principle applies in markets with strong learning-by-doing: the first firm to gain significant experience will have lower costs and can pull even farther ahead.
In some cases, especially for software with a zero marginal cost, you can go beyond free samples and actually pay people to take your product.
Expectations are a key factor in consumer decisions about whether or not to purchase a new technology, so make sure that you do your best to manage those expectations.
Note:RISPONDERE ALLE ASPETTATIVE
Vaporware is a classic tactic aimed at influencing expectations: announce an upcoming product so as to freeze your rival’s sales.
The most direct way to manage expectations is by assembling allies and making grand claims about your product’s current or future popularity.
ONCE YOU’VE WON
Staying on Your Guard
Technology marches forward. You have to keep looking out for the next generation of technology, which can come from unexpected directions.
Note:STARE IN GUARDIA SULLA PROSSIMA TECNOLOGIA
Microsoft, with all its foresight and savvy, has had to scurry to deal with the Internet phenomenon, trying to defuse any threat to its core business.
Note:MICROSOFT TAMPONA LA FALLA
The hazards of moving early and then lacking flexibility can be seen in the case of the French Minitel system.
Note:LA STRATEGIA DELL’ANTICIPO COSTA CARA
The French sluggishness to move to the Internet stems from two causes that are present in many other settings. First, France Telecom and its vendors had an incentive to preserve the revenue streams they were earning from Minitel. …Second, moving to the Internet presents substantial collective switching costs, and less incremental value, to French consumers in contrast with, say, American consumers. Precisely because Minitel was a success, it reduced the attractiveness of the Internet. …
Note:L’ INTERNET FRANCESE
Commoditizing Complementary Products
Once you’ve won, you want to keep your network alive and healthy. This means that you’ve got to attend not only to your own products but to the products produced by your complementors as well.
Note:QUANDO HAI VINTO VENDI IL TUO PRODOTTO
Apple has flipped back and forth on its developer relations over the years.
Competing with Your Own Installed Base
You may need to improve performance just to compete with your installed base, even without an external threat. How can you continue to grow when your information product or technology starts to reach market saturation?
Note:COMPETERE CON SE STESSI PER MIGLIORARSI E DISTACCARSI
Intel is pushing to improve hardware performance of complementary products and to develop applications that crave processing power so as to drive the hardware upgrade cycle.
The stiffest competition faced by Steinway in selling pianos is that from used Steinways.
Protecting Your Position
A variety of defensive tactics can help secure your position. This is where antitrust limits come in most sharply,
One tactic is to offer ongoing attractive terms to important complementors. For example, Nintendo worked aggressively to attract developers of hit games and used its popularity to gain very strong distribution.
Note:INCENTIVARE GLI SVILUPPATORI
Leveraging Your Installed Base
Once you have a strong installed base, basic principles of competitive strategy dictate that you seek to leverage into adjacent product spaces,
For example, the FTC forced Time Warner to agree to carry on its cable systems a rival news channel when Time Warner acquired CNN in its merger with Turner.
If you know better than others how the technology is likely to evolve, you can use this informational advantage to preserve important future rights without losing the support of your allies.
Note:PREVEDERE DA UNA POSTAZIONE DI VANTAGGIO
IBM chose to open up the PC, but then lost control because it didn’t see what the key assets would be in the future.
Note:UN CASO SFORTUNATO
Allow complementors, and even rivals, to participate in developing standards, but on your terms.
Note:MANTENERE DEI VINCOLI
What happens if you fall behind? Can you ever recover? That depends on what you mean by “recover.”
if the network externalities are not crushing, you may be able to protect a niche in the market.
Atari, Nintendo, Sega, and Sony are good examples. Atari was dominant in the first generation of video games, then Nintendo in second-generation, 8-bit systems. Sega made inroads by being first to market a 16-bit system, and recently Sony has been giving Nintendo a run for its money in 64-bit systems. Losing one round does not mean you should give up, especially if backward compatibility is not paramount.
Adapters and Interconnection
A tried and true tactic to use when falling behind is to add an adapter or to somehow interconnect with the larger network.
Note:PERDENTI MA CONNESSI
The first question to ask is whether you even have the right to build an adapter. Sometimes the large network can keep you out. Atari lacked the intellectual property rights to include an adapter in its machines to play Nintendo cartridges because of Nintendo’s lock-out chip. In other cases, you may be able to break down the door, or at least try.
Note:UN CASO DI LOCK OUT
Apple offers a good example of a company that responded to eroding market share by adding adapters. Apple put in disk drives that could read floppy disks formatted on DOS and Windows machines in the mid-1980s.
Note:UN CASO FORTUNATO
As we saw in Chapter 2, the marginal cost of producing information goods is close to zero. This means that you can cut your price very low and still cover (incremental) costs. Hence, when you find yourself falling behind in a network industry, it is tempting to cut price to spur sales, a tactic we call survival pricing.
Note:I PREZZI DEL PERDENTE
It shows weakness, and it is hard to find examples in which it has made much difference. Our very first case study of the Encyclopedia Britannica versus Encarta illustrated this problem.
If all else fails, sue. No, really. If the dominant firm has promised to be open and has reneged on that promise, you should attack its bait-and-switch approach. The Supreme Court in the landmark Kodak case, discussed in Chapter 6, opened the door to antitrust attacks along these lines, and many companies have taken up the invitation.
Note:ALTRA STRATEGIA: ADIRE ALLE VIE LEGALI
CAPSTONE CASE: MICROSOFT VERSUS NETSCAPE
We conclude our discussion of strategic standard setting by applying our framework to one of the most widely watched and reported standards wars of the last several years: the Battles of the Browsers.
Note:LA GRANDE BATTAGLIA DEI BROWSER
In one corner we have the company that popularized the very idea of an Internet browser: the Internet pioneer, darling of the stock market, and still reigning champion in the browser category, Netscape Communications Corporation.
In the other corner we have the heavyweight of high tech: the world’s largest software supplier, dominant on the desktop, grimly intent on catching the Internet wave, none other than the mighty Microsoft.
Preemption Netscape enjoyed a big head start with Navigator, which was introduced in 1995. Microsoft licensed the original source code for Mosaic from Spyglass and rushed Internet Explorer to market. Microsoft’s haste showed, and Internet Explorer was widely regarded as a joke until Internet Explorer 3.0
Note:I VANTAGGI DI PARTENZA
Penetration Pricing Both Netscape and Microsoft are masters at penetration pricing, each in its own way.
Expectations Management Netscape has stated recently that it plans to place its browser on as many as 100 million desktops. The company also announced that one hundred industry partners will package the Navigator browser with their products. Trumpeting grand plans for future sales,
Note:LE TROMBE DI NETSCAPE
Microsoft is not pulling its punches, either, in attempts to convince consumers that Internet Explorer is the browser of the future. Microsoft stated clearly and at an early stage that it planned to further integrate Internet Explorer into its Windows operating system.
Alliances Allies are especially important to Netscape, given its small size and young age. Netscape and Sun Microsystems are strong allies, with Netscape supporting Sun’s Java and Sun helping lend credibility to Netscape. Arthur Andersen’s support has helped Netscape make big inroads into the corporate intranet market. Netscape has also made arrangements with publishers to distribute on-line material to Navigator users and with Internet service providers to offer Navigator to their customers.
Microsoft has assembled its share of allies by offering attractive financial terms to content providers, ISPs, and OEMs. Indeed, even Microsoft’s 1997 investment in Apple was designed to promote Internet Explorer by increasing the distribution of the browser on Macintosh machines. Oddly, most of the press reports at the time missed this important aspect of the new Microsoft/Apple accommodation.