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The Dynamics of Technological Adoption in Hardware/Software Systems: The Case of Compact Disc Players

  • Gandal, Neil
  • Kirkwood MP, Archy
  • Rob, Rafael

In this paper we examine the diffusion of a hardware/software system. For such systems there is interdependence between the hardware adoption decisions of consumers and the supply decisions of software manufacturers. Hence there can be bottlenecks to the diffusion of the system which stem not from high prices but from the fact that the complementary product is not available. We consider the CD-industry and estimate the (direct) elasticity of adoption with respect to CD prices and (the cross) elasticity with respect to the variety of CD-titles. Our results show that the cross elasticity is indeed significant so that the presence of complementarities poses a serious bottleneck problem for the diffusion of the base product. We illustrate two applications of our methodology: (i) the business-policy question of how to subsidize a new base product which is contingent on a sufficiently large supply of complementary products & (ii) the public-policy question of what are the benefits of imposing backward compatibility on a new technology (e.g., high definition televisions).

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2078.

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Date of creation: Feb 1999
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2078
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  1. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-40, June.
  2. Michihiro, Kandori & Rob, Rafael, 1998. "Bandwagon Effects and Long Run Technology Choice," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 30-60, January.
  3. Joseph Farrell & Garth Saloner, 1984. "Standardization, Compatibility and Innovation," Working papers 345, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1986. "Technology Adoption in the Presence of Network Externalities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 822-41, August.
  5. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1992. "Product Introduction with Network Externalities," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(1), pages 55-83, March.
  6. Church, Jeffrey & Gandal, Neil, 1992. "Network Effects, Software Provision, and Standardization," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(1), pages 85-103, March.
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