EXPLORING THE LIMITS OF THE TECHNOLOGY S-CURVE. PART II: ARCHITECTURAL TECHNOLOGIES

Published on Jan 5, 2009in Production and Operations Management4.965
· DOI :10.1111/J.1937-5956.1992.TB00002.X
Clayton M. Christensen61
Estimated H-index: 61
(Harvard University)
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Abstract
This is the second of two papers in which I use information from the technological history of the disk drive industry to examine the usefulness of the S-curve framework for managers at the firm level in planning for new technology development. In this article I show that it is in architectural, rather than component innovation, that entrant firms exhibit an attacker's advantage. A conventionally drawn sequence of intersecting S-curves is a misleading conceptualization of the substitution process for new architectural technologies, because it characterizes architectural innovations strictly in technical terms. Innovations in architectural technologies frequently redefine the functionality of products and address product performance needs in new or remote markets, rather than mainstream ones. Such innovations in architectural technologies entail market innovation as much as technology development, and it is in their ability to aggressively enter emerging or remote markets that entrant firms exhibit an attacker's advantage. I propose a different S-curve framework for processes of architectural technology change that comprehends both its technological and market aspects.
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The technology S-curve is a useful framework describing the substitution of new for old technologies at the industry level. In this paper I use information from the technological history of the disk drive industry to examine the usefulness of the S-curve framework for managers at the firm level in planning for new technology development. Because improvements in over-all disk drive product performance result from the interaction of improved component technologies and new architectural technologie...
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