There is such a thing as the first mover advantage. But this does not give you an unassailable fortress from which you can charge what you want to.
I have been beavering away on Force.com trying to build a small app in my spare time over the past year.
They were the first to take the Platform-as-a-Service concept to market with the view of becoming the #1 platform for building web based applications.
Today, I am working on Google Apps Engine. Why? Because my initial model will be free, it links to Java which I can write in pretty well, and it ties together the rest of my Google basd information.
My other options were Amazon web services and Azure the Microsoft product. I had already lost faith in the Force.com platform.
Am I sleepwalking into a situation here Google dominates everything I do online? I don't really care, what I care about is what is convenient for me no, today!
I was a Yahoo! holdout, but once I tried Google there was no going back. Quicker, simpler and more accurate. In fact Google showed Yahoo that they were actually in the Search business and not the portal business.
My family were early Betamax adopters and it wasn't until VHS became just so prevalent that we changed. Why did we change? Convenience again... if we ever wanted to hire or buy a new release video again we had to change over. Simple.
Apple was no where near being the first mover in the portable digital music space, but nobody else had even come close to setting the world on fire with a product in that area. Today, the convenience and integration of the iPod, iTunes and all the supporting paraphernalia means Apple is unlikely to be unseated anytime soon.
If you were smart, lucky and industrious enough to be the first mover then be aware of how other first movers have lost their advantage.
1) The information revolution, open economic borders and rising levels of global competence means that price really is a factor!
Watch SAP and Oracle over the next few years as Google continues to invent the future while they defend the inflexible architectures (And huge consulting fees) of the past.
2) Flexibility is key. Todays business plan is tomorrows landfill.
Plans, strategies, processes, technologies... you name it. The world is changing at a dramatically altered pace. Companies are continually faced with the innovate or die scenario. (Ask General Motors about this one)
Whether you deliver services, technologies or advice - your ability to integrate quantum leap changes in technology within their infrastructure and approaches is vital. This includes the ability to easily integrate with other technologies and approaches.
3) Adoption rate is everything. BluRay won because the porn industry adopted BluRay, the largest DVD recording industry in the world today.
My adoption of Google Apps Engine was as simple as entering my Google password on their registration page. No payments, no authority needed and no forms to fill out and I am off and running.
In fact the first screen I saw after entering my Google password had a button titled "Create an Application". You don't get much less friction than that.
Think of most things you have ever done on Google, with your iPod or with iTunes. You rarely if ever need a manual, or even a help desk. But when you do there is one available. This is another example of a lack of friction.
It is easy to adopt Google Docs (say) simply because it is easy to adopt Google Docs! They are intuitive, functional, and they tie in automatically with oher programs in the Google cyberverse. Again, no friction.
Being first is great, but it provides a short term advantage only - there is no guarantee of ultimate success.
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