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Compatibility and Proprietary Standards: The Impact of Conversion Technologies in IT Markets with Network Effects

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journal contribution
posted on 01.04.2009, 00:00 authored by Charles Zhechao Liu, Esther Gal-Or, Chris F. Kemerer, Michael SmithMichael Smith

In markets that exhibit network effects, the presence of digital conversion technologies provides an alternative mechanism to achieve compatibility. This study examines the impact of conversion technologies on market equilibrium in the context of sequential duopoly competition and proprietary technology standards.

We analyze this question by departing from the extant literature to endogenize the decision to provide a converter and incorporate explicit negotiations between firms concerning the extent of conversion. We argue that these choices better reflect the environment facing firms in digital goods industries and find that these decisions change some of the established results in the literature.

Specifically, we find that unless network effects are very large, the subgame perfect equilibrium involves firms’ agreeing to provide digital converters at a sufficiently low price to all consumers. At this equilibrium, both the entrant and the incumbent are better off since the provision of converters alleviates price competition in the market and leads to both higher product revenues and higher proceeds from the sale of converters. Moreover, under some circumstances the provision of converters is welfare enhancing.

These findings have important implications for research and practice in the adoption of new digital goods as the introduction of conversion technologies can reduce the social costs of standardization without compromising the benefits of network effects.


Publisher Statement

This is an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. A definitive version is available from INFORMS at



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