Open Platform Strategies and Innovation: Granting Access vs. Devolving Control


This paper studies two fundamentally distinct approaches to opening a technology platform and their different impacts on innovation. One approach is to grant access to a platform and thereby open up markets for complementary components around the platform. Another approach is to give up control over the platform itself. Using data on 21 handheld computing systems (1990–2004), I find that granting greater levels of access to independent hardware developer firms produces up to a fivefold acceleration in the rate of new handheld device development, depending on the precise degree of access and how this policy was implemented. Where operating system platform owners went further to give up control (beyond just granting access to their plat- forms) the incremental effect on new device development was still positive but an order of magnitude smaller. The evidence from the industry and theoretical arguments both suggest that distinct economic mechanisms were set in motion by these two approaches to opening.

Last updated on 03/15/2018