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Technological Evolution, System Architecture and the Obsolescence of Firm Capabilities

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  • Iansiti, Marco
  • Khanna, Tarun
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    Abstract

    We present a historical study of technological evolution in the mainframe computer industry. We show that the pattern of innovation in the industry is not well characterized by existing models. The incremental evolution of mainframe system performance as seen by the customer was the result of an aggregation that masked substantial discontinuities at the component level. New technological concepts led to the frequent obsolescence of existing capabilities, despite the stability of customer needs and the persistence of a dominant design. The nature of our observations is captured in a simple critical path model of technological evolution. Our conceptualization sheds light on the dynamics of the evolution of the capability base of firms in an environment characterized by complex products and rapid technological change. Copyright 1995 by Oxford University Press.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Industrial & Corporate Change.

    Volume (Year): 4 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 333-61

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    Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:4:y:1995:i:2:p:333-61

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    Cited by:
    1. Hobday, Mike, 1998. "Product complexity, innovation and industrial organisation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 689-710, February.
    2. Fabiano Schivardi & Martin Schneider, 2008. "Strategic Experimentation and Disruptive Technological Change," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(2), pages 386-412, April.
    3. Barnett, William P. & McKendrick, David, 2001. "The Organizational Evolution of Global Technological Competition," Research Papers 1682, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    4. Iansiti, Marco, 1997. "From technological potential to product performance: an empirical analysis," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 345-365, October.
    5. P. Murmann & K. Frenken, 2002. "Toward a Systematic Framework for Research on Dominant Designs, Technological Innovations, and Industrial Change," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2002-12, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    6. Sobrero, Maurizio & Roberts, Edward B., 2002. "Strategic management of supplier-manufacturer relations in new product development," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 159-182, January.
    7. Wang, Q. & von Tunzelmann, N., 2000. "Complexity and the functions of the firm: breadth and depth," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(7-8), pages 805-818, August.

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