Commnetary & Columns

Dear reader, For many years I have been writing columns abou the economics of the electronics industry. This page contains the recent columns. The older ones can be found here, which become the basis for my book, Diamonds are Forever, Computers are Not: Economic and Strategic Management in Computing Markets. Go to my book page for further links.

Here are the recent columns, grouped together by topic.

Managerial Challenges in Evolving Markets
June 2013
Can platforms differentiate? If so, along what dimensions do platforms differentiate? There is more to the question than meets the eye, even when platforms differentiate by their size, history, and degree of restrictiveness.
December 2012
Firms have to understand the economics of complements in order to formulate proper strategy. What are the basic factors that shape firms strategy? What are common misperceptions? How do those show up in typical events?
February, 2007
Managers initiate experiments and learn lessons from the results. As lessons spread their unique value declines, but they become part of the accumulated lessons of the industry, seeding more innovation. How does this work?
June, 2005
Managing multiple viewpoints in uncertain environments is a fundamental challenge for managers in high tech markets. Received many comments on it. Many readers liked this one.
February, 2005
Different viewpoints about what it means for an industry to "mature". Does it mean more consolidation or less?
October, 2004
Deconstructing the two most common approaches to understanding "creative destruction" of existing firms. A personal favorite.
Capturing and Creating Value
April 2013
In an honesty box users name their own price, even zero. How are we to make sense of an online honesty box? This column discusses two prominent examples, one from RadioHead and one from Cards Against Humanity. What are lessons?
April, 2012
Compare Apple with Google. Both are fabulously profitable, but they would seem to be very different. They are specialists in different market, and they possess different strengths. Does a comparison help illustrate what it takes to become very profitable?
October, 2010
Is the web dead? Has the proliferation of proprietary content for selfish commercial goals altered the fundamental economics of the situation?
November, 2007
Much innovative development occurs at the periphery, not the core. What does that look like and why? One way to interpret the economics of the edge.
April, 2006
What does Intel's pricing of microprocessors tell us? About only changes in supply conditions or about changes in demand conditions?
October, 2005
For many years firms exporting to the US would climb a value chain through one type of strategy. Today's firms are trying another.
June, 2004
Innovation invites imitation. Innovation is more lucrative without imitation. How firms on both sides of this fault line think about the situation.
April, 2004
Margins decline when a product has many substitutes. What firms do to resist this force in innovative markets.
Considering topical questions
February 2013
Many commentators have predicted changes in the gaming market due to the radical changes taking place in the underlying platforms -- Kinnect, smart phones, and tablets. Is it something new or just the same economics with new players?
December 2011
How can one entrepreneur make a difference? Love him or despite him, the life of Steve Jobs illustrates many different perspectives on entrepreneurship.
February, 2010
Will the fairy tale continue at Google? Another firm had a fairy tale for a while -- Microsoft. What should Google learn from the tale in Redmond?
October, 2009
Google spends lavishly on Google Books and many other advernturist projects. It might or might not be a waste of money. Is that a problem?
December, 2008
As the financial panic brings about a general downturn, what are the basicpredictions for the next year?
August, 2008
Trying to vote for the presidential candidate who supports high tech? Good luck. Why high tech depends on the election, but nobody votes on that basis.
February/March and April/May 2008
As Bill Gates prepares to retire, it is time to ask the big historical question: Did Bill Gates make his wealth through fair means or foul? A look back at his thirty year managerial career with both high praise and harshness. A two part series (There is a lot to say).
August, 2006
How much can a new Federal law do to help entreprenuership? Recent experience suggests it is easier for new laws to hurt than help, even when they are well-meaning.
April, 2005
Do mergers in telecommunications bode a decline in introduction of new services from firms taking contrarian positions?
December, 2005
It is a common assertion, but how close are we? Closer than one might think, but still also a bit far away.
Conundrums in Technical Progress and Economic Growth
October, 2012

Talk to the management at leading technology firms in the same market, and the similarities in opinions are striking. Most hold roughly the same set of opinions, beliefs, and ideas about how specific actions lead to successful business outcomes. Where does “prevailing view" come from?

January, 2011
Many aspects of the digital economy are not measured very well, but we know they are there. How do we know this stuff has to be big? Examples are not hard to find.
June, 2010
We have lived through several decades of dramtically falling costs for digital goods. How much value does this create? It is the simplest questions that are the hardest to answer.
April, 2010
On the surface mass market bleeding edge standards are a conundrum. In order to generate change, they must build processes on top of older layers. How does this work, and why does this work?
October, 2006
How do new technologies becomes pervasive? Everyone knows this process causes economic growth? But how? A look at diffusion of products and services that eventually become ubiquitous.
August, 2004
A diamond holds its market value over time, but most consumer electronics products do not. Why do things made on silicon wafers fail to hold their value?
February, 2004
It is a cliche' that modern inventors seek fame and fortune. The reality of modern markets suggests that fame does not come easily. Why is that? A quirky topic but a personal favorite.
August, 2003
Modern market watchers take for granted improvements in electronics, as represented by Moore's law. Why do such improvements lead to economic growth? More pointed, why has it helped stave off the Malthusian trap? An remark on the 200 year anniversary of Malthus' essay. A personal favorite.

Internet Economics

January 2012
Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. When does this work and when does it fail? Wikipedia's experience suggests some general answers to that question.
December, 2009
Is the Internet a network of networks? No, it should be called a network of platforms. That reflects how it has evolved since commercialization.
August, 2009
There is no escaping the poetry of our age. Information technology has become so ubiquitious that it has changed many social patterns of behavior.
February, 2009
How will we recognize symptoms of health in an innovative industry when we see them?
October, 2008
I have grown tired of reading techological nightmares of how the Internet will fall apart. What would a nightmare look like if it had economic roots?
October, 2007
If the benefits from converting to broadband were properly measured, what would be the implied growth rate of the Internet access market?
June, 2007
The official price index for Internet access did not change for eight years and then it dropped dramatically. Why did the price of the Internet drop suddenly?
April, 2007
The economics of Wikipedia presents many challenges. In Internet lingo, it has a long tail. Where does it come from and what can we say about that tail?
Book Reviews and other Miscellaneous topic
August, 2012
What is the difference between high quality economic analysis and otherwise? This type of analysis shows up in Wall Street analysts reports. Take the guess-work out of recognizing a well done piece of economics.
June, 2012
What type of experience would a character like Walter Mitty have in today's Silicon Valley? How would he survive amongst all of the modern economic archetypes? A little parody on the classic story by James Thurber. Special for the 100th column.
October, 2011
A review of the book, The Innovation Journey of Wi-Fi.
October, 2003
A review of Geoff Rohlfs' book about bandwagons and network effects.
Communications policy
Augsut, 2011
The phrase "captured regulator" has a pejorative meaning, but gets used too casually. It does not explain all of Internet policy. What is an alternative? This column describes an honest policy wonk.
June, 2011
The FCC issued the Open Internet Order in December, 2010. The House of Representatives considered and passed HR 37, largely along party lines. It attempts to throw out the entire order. My take on the issues.
April, 2011
The diffusion of broadband helps other firms, in what economists often call a spillover. Who has been helped by the diffusion of broadband. Where are most of these large firms located? A first look.
December, 2010
Many commentators are unhappy with the state of US Broadband. It reaches the frontier too slowly, and it has not spread to rural areas as quickly. What economic principles link these observations?
June, 2009
It happened behind the scences, but it has been very signficiant. Today much spectrum is allocated through market mechanisms.
April, 2009
A small portion of the stimulus bill, $7.2B, went to broadband. What was the justification? What were some of the issues with this allocation?
August, 2007
There are two ways to estimate the contribution of a new good to the economy. What are the estimates for broadband?
December, 2006
Plain language about the economic content inside this populists debate. Is there any substance? A look at the four nightmares of net neutrality.
Signposts and Milestones in Evolving Markets
June, 2006
This common cliche' contains a grain of truth. Variety has many benefits. Yet, markets cannot support an infinite amount.
February, 2006
Events from the past several decades cast a shadow on the most recent format war in storage media.
August, 2005
Firms play different roles at different stages in a new markets evolution. Sometimes it is the same firm; sometimes it involves different firms.
December, 2004
When are the most common metaphors for technological forecasting very useful? The benefits and limits are illustrated on the early MP3 Market. A personal favorite. This was fun to write.
June, 2003
The future is hard to forecast for many reasons. This essay suggests that human fraility does not get enough credit for making events unpredictable.

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Last updated 12/22/06