The Power of Integrality: Linkages between Product Architecture, Innovation, and Industry Structure

57 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2007 Last revised: 20 Dec 2013

See all articles by Sebastian K. Fixson

Sebastian K. Fixson

Babson College - Technology, Operations, and Information Management Division

Jin-Kyu Park

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: January 1, 2007

Abstract

A substantial literature stream suggests that many products are becoming more modular over time, and that this development is often associated with a change in industry structure towards higher degrees of specialization. These developments can have strong implications for an industry's competition as the history of the PC industry illustrates. To add to our understanding of the linkages between product architecture, innovation, and industry structure we develop detailed product architecture measurements based on a previously proposed method (Fixson, 2005) and study an unusual case in which a firm - through decreasing its product modularity - turned its formerly competitive industry into a near-monopoly. Using this case study we explore how existing theories on modularity explain the observed phenomenon, and show that most consider technological change in rather long-term dimensions, and tend to focus on efficiency related arguments to explain the resulting forces on competition. We add three critical aspects to the theory that connects technological change and industry dynamics. First, we suggest integrating as a new design operator to explain product architecture genesis. Second, we argue that a finer-grained analysis of the product architecture shows the existence of multiple linkages between product architecture and industry structure, and that these different linkages help explain the observed intra-industry heterogeneity across firms. Third, we propose that the firm boundary choice can also be a pre-condition of the origin of architectural innovation, not only an outcome of efficiency considerations.

Keywords: Product Architecture, Integrality, Modularity, Technological Change, Intra-industry

Suggested Citation

Fixson, Sebastian K. and Park, Jin-Kyu, The Power of Integrality: Linkages between Product Architecture, Innovation, and Industry Structure (January 1, 2007). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4642-07; Research Policy, Vol. 37, No. 8, 1296-1316. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=976075 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.976075

Sebastian K. Fixson (Contact Author)

Babson College - Technology, Operations, and Information Management Division ( email )

231 Forest St.
Babson Park, MA 02457
United States

Jin-Kyu Park

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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