Design Rules, Volume 2: How Technology Shapes Organizations: Chapter 17 The Wintel Standards-based Platform
30 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2019
Date Written: November 5, 2019
The purpose of this chapter is to use the theory of bottlenecks laid out in previous chapters to better understand the dynamics of an open standards-based platform. I describe how the Wintel platform evolved from 1990 through 2000 under joint sponsorship of Intel and Microsoft. I first describe a series of technical bottlenecks that arose in the early 1990s concerning the “bus architecture” of IBM-compatible PCs.
Intel’s management of buses demonstrates how, under conditions of distributed supermodular complementarity, a platform sponsor can reconfigure the modular structure of a technical system, property rights within the system, and its own zone of authority to increase system-wide throughput, while protecting its own strategic bottleneck from disintermediation.
I go on to describe how Microsoft used platform envelopment to establish a second strategic bottleneck in productivity software and later to respond to the threat of disintermediation from platform-independent Internet browsers. I end the chapter by discussing the conditions under which shared platform sponsorship can be a long-term dynamic equilibrium.
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