First Mover Advantage

When I was in business school, the professors crowed on and on about first mover advantage. Technological leadership. Scarce resources. Switching costs (buyers are uncertain to switch). Today, I wonder if this holds true. Innovators are often left in the dark or blind to the potential of their creations. There are many examples:

  • Nintendo vs Atari
  • Apple’s Newton vs Palm Pilot (Yeah, the gang at Cupertino lost this one, at least in the short term)
  • Charles Stack Online Bookstore vs Amazon (Few even know Charles had a two-year headstart and was acquired by Barnes and Noble)

And sometimes, technology is positioned wrong or is simply too early on the hype cycle curve. When Microsoft released the new Kinect with XBOX One, I was stoked. I could power up my TV by shouting (Hey, XBOX or something), try out P-90X, or play Fruit Ninja. It could even detect my heart rate. However, it’s been almost abandoned, a casualty of Sony coming in one hundred dollars cheaper. Yet, I’m not sure that’s what turned people off. Remember, it’s always listening? It was 1984 all over again. Microsoft had to take steps to turn the feature off in later code drops. Now, fast forward three years, consumers have latched on to Alexa and Google Home with glee, brushing privacy concerns aside.

Perhaps, Ricky Bobby, if you’re not first … well … maybe you are first.


  • Close-up picture of the latest XBOX. Sometimes, iteration beats a first-mover advantage. The latest sales figures for the current generation console – Series X – look promising.