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November 11, 2010

The second mover advantage

There is a mythology out there that he who moves second has an advantage because you can see all of the mistakes of the first mover, and you get to position yourself where your competitor is not positioned.

Sound advice, great idea... unless you are competing with Apple...

When Apple moves the industry moves with it.They represent the classic example why the second mover advantage should only ever be a fall back position because you were not smart/quick/innovative enough to get there first.

I had a Blackberry. But this wasn't really the first smart phone was it. Looking back on it, it was more like a transitional device between what was (Nokia type stuff) and what was to come. (The iPhone)

Even when the iPhone came out, despite being a bit of a gadget freak, I hung in there with my trusty blackberry. But ultimately I switched. It was inevitable...

Today there are real smart phones every where. A dozen or so that look like the Google Android, a dozen or so that look like Windows 7 and a few other brands. (RIM is a finished force, they just haven't realized it yet)

But I love my iPhone. It does most everything I require, attaches me to the greatest mobile app store and enables me to listen to audio books, watch TV and listen to podcasts.

This is the problem with moving second. If you move second than you need two things in your favour. Dissatisfaction with the incumbent, and a very good reason for people to switch.

If you moved first all you need to do is continue to deliver outstanding products.

Microsoft moved first on the desktop and their product were good enough for the majority of the world to stick with them through several decades. Yahoo thought it was winning the directory game until Google appeared to teach them that they were actually in the Search business.

Think fast, find a niche, protect the heck out of it and drive it home with powerful marketing and services... beat playing catch up.