I was reading my dear husband’s blog post about the new iPad mini and the Microsoft Surface, the latest entrants to the tablet market. It reminded me about a terrific book co-authored by one of my mentors, the late Paul Geroski. The book is Fast Second, written with Constantinos Markides, written int 2005 so it pre-dates tablets. But the hypothesis may apply.
Their argument is that in a radically new technology, the supposed first mover advantage may be ephemeral: “The firms that end up capturing the new market are those firms that time their entry so they appear just as the dominant design is about to emerge…. For big, established firms contemplating entry into a new radical market, this is the best strategy to follow.” This is what they mean by fast second – neither first mover, nor second-mover i.e. waiting for a clearly dominant design and standards, and offering a cheaper me-too product.
The examples in the book include IBM in mainframes, GE in CT scanners, Canon in cameras, Sharp in faxes. I don’t know whether the iPad challenger tablets would count in Paul’s view, or whether the iPad mini will fend off fast seconds, but it’s worth pondering.