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First to Market

Recently I was thinking about the fact that many managers and executives will rush products to market just to be first.  Although I'm sure cases exist where products that were first to market now dominate the market, I really can't think of any.  It seems in most areas that a few companies will bring out similar products and then eventually one company will learn from all their mistakes and release a product that eventually dominates the market.

Can anyone think of products that benefited from being first to market?

Friday, May 16, 2003

Ebay was not necessarily the true first to market, but they were the first acceptable player to market. In a business like auctions, with important network effects, being the first viable player does matter. If there are not clear cut network effects, it is much less important.

Just remember that in any case throwing out a product that does not meet customer needs just in order to be first will not work.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Along time I go read some books by Al Ries, 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing, Focus. In these books there are lots of examples of being first winning - but I seem to remember they are all like beer, aspirins, etc... I do remember he attacks the idea of building a better widget which is the route most companies attempt to follow.

Perhaps it does not apply to computers, at least not in the long run, as we throw out so much stuff, and start over every few years.

Additionally the market leader of a few years ago would almost automatically assumed by a lot of people to be obsolete. If WordStar or VisiCalc was suddenly came out with a new word processor/spreadsheet, I doubt most would even look at it, no matter how good it was.

S. Tanna
Friday, May 16, 2003

The Apollo 8!

Friday, May 16, 2003

Apollo 1.  Lessons of rushing to be first to market.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, May 16, 2003

Do you know who the 1st person to fly across the Atlantic ocean is?

How about the 2nd person? Didn't think so.

But what about the 3rd person? Do you know who that is?

Well, how about this one; who was the first woman to cross the Atlantic? I'll give you a hint, she was the 3rd person to cross. :)

The point is (and this comes from that book of 22 mentioned above), they only remember the 1st. If you can't be the 1st in your category, then you need to make a new category.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Who remembers Xerox PARC?  Almost noone.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, May 16, 2003

Do you remember the first spreadsheet (VisiCalc)?  Do you use it today? Do you buy upgrades for it?

Do you remember the first popular [which I also remember is one of the restrictions in the book - it's no good being first if nobody ever hears of you] word processor (arguablly one one of WordStar or Wang or WordPerfect) ? Do you use it? Do you buy upgrades for it?

I just don't think the first logic works, if you basically expect to throw the whole kaboodle out every few years.

S. Tanna
Friday, May 16, 2003

Xerox PARC was uneconomical to release, or so the bods at Xerox decided.

It wasn't first to market; it never got to market.

Uhh, who invented the internal combustion engine? A certain Mr. Otto, but the first practical engines were bought to market independently by a Mr. Daimler and a Mr. Benz, whom you may have heard of.

Marconi might be in Chapter 11 now but it has sure had a good run for its money, and wasn't it Eddison who founded General Electric?

And why do you tnink US telcos are called Baby Bells?

What was the first industrial strength relational database? Oracle.

And the first portal cum search engine? Yahoo.

And there are plenty of companies that get the market cornered and then lose it. We would all be running Apples if Apple had been prepared to allow cloning; it prefered to go for high profit margins over market share, however. Netscape got busted by a combination of illegal bundling and its own stupidity (by refusing to allow a modular Netscape it forced all developers to use IE). Word Perfect had the market and lost it somewhat unjustly to Word, not because Word was better, but because Excel was better than the equivalent spreadsheet program.

GSM is the standard everywhere else but the States and Korea, not because it's technically the best (it isn't) but because it could be deployed quicker so everybody took it up and phone manufacturers could profit from economies of scale.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 16, 2003

Interesting to see these two things finally put together in the same thread.

I suppose the reason Xerox PARC is mentioned because it is commonly assumed that the graphical user interface was invented there. However, this is not true.

The graphical interface, including menus, windows, and direct manipulation of the screen, was invented and put to productive use in the flight evaluation systems built in the aftermath of the Apollo 1 disaster. This (and other improvements) allowed evaluation of flight data to be reduced from 6 months to under a week, enabling lessons learned from one flight to be applied to the next. It also enabled much data that was unusable before to be recovered. This vastly improved the quality of the design improvements and the speed at which they were implemented, allowing the United States to be the first and only society to send men to visit the moon, which was not only the most astounding technical achievement of all time, but centuries ahead of its time and also the only engineering project of its size ever to be successfully completed.

X. J. Scott
Friday, May 16, 2003

"The point is (and this comes from that book of 22 mentioned above), they only remember the 1st. If you can't be the 1st in your category, then you need to make a new category"

I thought the objective was to make millions from a product, not to get in the history book for acts of courage and daring.

I also suspect you can find some products that were first to a market, but didn't make nearly as much money as their successors.

Even then, "first to make a million in this market" doesn't look as good alongside someone else's "first to make ten million in this market."

andrew m
Monday, May 19, 2003

First to market doesn't necessarily mean you win.

First of all, you have to be first to market with an acceptable solution. Second, you have to get a significant portion of the early market-share. Third, you have to maintain that (proportional) market share by not screwing up.

An example of first to market making the winner is Quicken. Even in the face of Microsoft giving away Money for free, they should couldn't crack Intuit's hold.

An example of first to market making the loser is Netscape. IE was completely off the radar until 3.0. It wasn't until Netscape decided to stop writing code and stop innovating that they lost. Even in the world of 4.0 vs 4.0, they were still quite dominant. Then they went, well, half a decade before they had a release, while Microsoft continued to innovate in the space. (By the way, the reverse is happening now, and it should scare Microsoft: IE 6.0 was years ago, and they show no desire to innovate, while Netscape and Mozilla are making the slow and steady climb back into popularity. I don't think the war is over yet...)

Brad Wilson (
Monday, May 19, 2003

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