Franco Malerba, Richard Nelson, Luigi Orsenigo, Sidney Winter

Competition and industrial policies in a 'history friendly' model of the evolution of the computer industry
JEL classification: L10; L4; O30; L63
Keywords: competition policies, industrial dynamics and evolution, computer industry

Abstract: In this paper we explore some problems that industrial policy faces in industries characterized by dynamic increasing returns on the basis of a 'history friendly model' of the evolution of the computer industry. How does policy affect industry structure over the course of industry evolution? Is the timing of the intervention important? Do policy interventions have indirect and perhaps unintended consequences on different markets at different times? We focus on two sets of policies: antitrust and interventions aiming at supporting the entry of new forms in the industry. The results of our simulations show that, if strong dynamic increasing returns are operative, both through technological capabilities and through customer tendency to stick with a brand, there is little that antitrust and entry policy could have done to avert the rise of dominant firm in mainframes. On the other hand, if the customer lock in effect had been smaller, either by chance or through policies that discouraged efforts of firms to lock in their customers, the situation might have been somewhat different. In the first place, even in absence of antitrust or entry-encouraging policies, market concentration would have been lower, albeit a dominant firm would emerge anyhow. Second, antitrust and entry-encouraging policies would have been more effective in assuring that concentration would decrease. The leading firm would continue to dominate the market, but its relative power would be reduced.