23 November 2009

iPhone Apps and economic networks

I have blogged around this subject before, so when this article in BusinessWeek showed up, my interest was piqued. When economists began looking at standards in IT in the 1980s, researchers like Joe Farrell, Garth Saloner, Carl Shapiro and Michael Katz began noting the importance of networks of tie-ins to the lock-in often associated with standards. They noted in particular the importance of software to the success of PCs vs. Macs (though this view was disputed by Margolis and others).

The BusinessWeek article is significant because it shows a weakening of the tie-ins to the iPhone, which would, according to the economic theories of standards, suggest that the durability of this platform in the face of other existing (and emerging platforms) is not particularly strong. Note that this is not unrelated to the "opaqueness" of the approval process by the Apple App Store and the relatively poor profitability of iPhone apps.

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