Bandwagon Effects in High Technology Industries

Overview

Economists use the term "bandwagon effect" to describe the benefit a consumer enjoys as a result of others' using the same product or service. The history of videocassettes offers a striking example of the power of bandwagon effects. Originally there were two technical standards for videocassettes in the United States: Beta and VHS. Beta was widely regarded to have better picture quality, but VHS could record longer television programs. Eventually the selection of Beta cassettes shrank to zero, leaving consumers ...
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Overview

Economists use the term "bandwagon effect" to describe the benefit a consumer enjoys as a result of others' using the same product or service. The history of videocassettes offers a striking example of the power of bandwagon effects. Originally there were two technical standards for videocassettes in the United States: Beta and VHS. Beta was widely regarded to have better picture quality, but VHS could record longer television programs. Eventually the selection of Beta cassettes shrank to zero, leaving consumers no choice but to get on the VHS bandwagon. The most successful bandwagon, apart from telephone service, is the Internet.

In this book Jeffrey Rohlfs shows how the dynamics of bandwagons differ from those of conventional products and services. They are difficult to get started and often fail before getting under way. A classic example of a marketing failure is the Picturephone, introduced by the Bell System in the early 1970s. Rohlfs describes the fierce battles waged by competitors when new services are introduced, as well as cases of early agreement on a single technical standard, as with CDs and CD players. He also discusses the debate among economists and policy analysts over the advantages and disadvantages of having governments set technical standards. The case studies include fax machines, telephones, CD players, VCRs, personal computers, television, and the Internet.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher

"This book is a gem; Rohlf's writing is straightforward and very readable. The book is timely because its subject matter is at the heart of e-commerce."--Edward E. Zajac, Department of
Economics, University of Arizona

The MIT Press

"A witty and accessible introduction to bandwagon and network effects by one of the true pioneers in the field. The book surveys theory and practice to draw out practical lessons of interest to business and government decision makers alike."--Michael Katz, Edward J. and Mollie
Arnold Professor of Business Administration, Haas School of Business, University of California,
Berkeley

The MIT Press

"Jeffrey Rohlfs was a major early contributor to the theory of network effects, and here he combines sensible theory with thoughtful case studies. Everyone interested in innovation and competition will find value in this book."--Joseph Farrell, Department of Economics, University of
California, Berkeley, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of
Justice

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262182171
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2001
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey H. Rohlfs is a Principal at Strategic Policy Research in Bethesda, Maryland.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Foreword
I Introduction 1
1 The High-Technology Bandwagon 3
2 A Bandwagon Tour 7
II Bandwagons: How They Work 13
3 Bandwagon Demand 19
4 Bandwagon Supply 33
5 Summary of Results of Bandwagon Theory 55
III Case Studies 59
6 Fax 61
7 Early Telephone 69
8 Picturephone 83
9 Compact-Disc Players 91
10 VCRs 105
11 Personal Computers 117
12 Television 137
13 The Internet 167
IV Conclusions 193
14 Summary of Results 195
15 Final Remarks 203
Mathematical Appendix 205
Notes 223
Glossary of Economics Concepts 235
Dictionary of Abbreviations and Acronyms 239
Bibliography 241
Index 247
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