"Economists have a clever theory to explain why users often get
locked into technically unsatisfactory standards. The theory also
sheds light on why a single company controls such a large slice of
the PC software market. Economists call their theory the Network
Effect. Assuming the theory is sound, it is likely to have more
effect on the future of Linux and open source than many of the
technical and quality issues Linux insiders tend to focus
"A large community of PC users also means there's a lot of
support in place. And because the majority of PCs use the same
hardware and software standards components and programs can be
swapped between machines with ease. In other words, the PC market
shows characteristics of the Network Effect and for users there is
a law of increasing returns."
"One consequence of the network effect is that once a product is
established in the market, demand for similar but incompatible
products collapses. Think Betamax. Think Amiga. This process makes
it extremely easy for monopolies to form and it also means
consumers get locked in to technologies. Note here that it isn't
necessary the best technology that wins - just the one that manages
to reach a dominant market share."
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