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Network Externalities in Microcomputer Software: An Econometric Analysis of the Spreadsheet Market


  • Erik Brynjolfsson

    (MIT Sloan School of Management, E53-313, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142)

  • Chris F. Kemerer

    (Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh, 278A Mervis Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260)


Because of network externalities, the success of a software product may depend in part on stalled base and its conformance to industry standards. This research builds a hedonic model to determine the effects of network externalities, standards, intrinsic features and a time trend on microcomputer spreadsheet software prices. When data for a sample of products during the 1987--1992 time period were analyzed using this model, four main results emerged: 1) Network externalities, as measured by the size of a product's installed base, significantly increased the price of spreadsheet products: a one percent increase in a product's installed base was associated with a 0.75% increase in its price. 2) Products which adhered to the dominant standard, the Lotus menu tree interface, commanded prices which were higher by an average of 46%. 3) Although nominal prices increased slightly during this time period, quality-adjusted prices declined by an average of 16% per year. 4) The hedonic model was found to be a good predictor of actual market prices, despite the fact that it was originally estimated using list prices. Several variations of the model were examined, and, while the qualitative findings were robust, the precise estimates of the coefficients varied somewhat depending on the sample of products examined, the weighting of the observations and the functional form used in estimation, suggesting that the use of hedonic methods in this domain is subject to a number of limitations due, inter alia, to the potential for strategic pricing by vendors.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Brynjolfsson & Chris F. Kemerer, 1996. "Network Externalities in Microcomputer Software: An Econometric Analysis of the Spreadsheet Market," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(12), pages 1627-1647, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:42:y:1996:i:12:p:1627-1647

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