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IBM PC and Sony Walkman Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 4th, 2021

Rare and unique features of the IBM PC and the Sony Walkman

The IBM Personalized Computer (PC) was an exceptional product owing to its small size. The PC was made in record time; 12 months through the use of pretested parts from vendors. This PC was exceptional because not only could it process text and store data, but it could also connect to people’s television sets.

Furthermore, the convenience of its size was unrivaled in the PC market. Previously, businesses required a series of technological experts to manage just one computer. In 1981, IBM made it possible for one user to control all the operations on a computer. Another feature that made the IBM PC exceptional was other firms’ ability to clone the product.

Since the production process had been well documented, then other programmers could write for the product; this increased its commercial viability. The computer was a well-made machine that had similar memory capacitates to larger computers that required more components. This ensured that the costs were much less than other machines thus sealing its commercial success (Spector 19).

Similarly, the Sony Walkman also had rare and hard to imitate qualities. It was the first product that would allow users to listen to music as they moved about. All the aspects of the walkman had already been invented, but none of them existed in one unit. Cassette players were used to record voices rather than being used as playbacks. Additionally, the headphone was used for other purposes other than personal listening.

This product was compact and lightweight, thus explaining its portability. It was also cheap and had a satisfactory sound quality. A Walkman also allowed individuals to personalize their musical preferences. The device could be used to create playlists, which was a fresh and exciting feature in the music technology industry.

First mover advantage for the firms

IBM got the privilege of commercial success as a result of its first mover advantage. The extent of adoption of IBM’s invention was overwhelming; sales of this machine superseded expectations even from within the organization. The company sold more computers in a month than it had expected to sell in a full year. IBM took advantage of its image; although Apple already sold computers, few businesses took the latter firm seriously.

IBM already had a strong reputation of innovation, so this propelled greater success of the 1981 computer. It was also difficult for IBM PC users to move to Apple computers, so most of them remained with the firm. In other words, the company enjoyed great brand loyalty because of difficult switching costs. Lastly, the company had patents over the 1981 PC and this allowed it to prevent duplication from competitors.

Just like the IBM PC, the Sony Walkman enjoyed a strong brand image. The product was introduced amid pomp and color in Japan. Consumers thus identified the product with the company and kept buying it. In fact, Sony contributed to popular culture as a result of this device. Through effective advertisement, the product was seen as a symbol of freedom among the youth (DuGay 53).

The Walkman especially had mass appeal among members of the young generation. It was relatively easy to penetrate the market at the time because the Walkman was the first of its kind. Sales and marketing employees went to the streets of Tokyo and gave passersby a chance to test the product. Most of them liked it and bought it almost immediately.

Just like IBM, the products’ success relied on its unique and never-seen-before qualities. The organization had patents to minimize duplication of the products. Furthermore because the production process was done internally, then the company could keep this technology as a secret from potential competitors.

Whether the companies sustained their first mover advantages

IBM did not sustain its first mover advantage. In fact, the organization no longer sells personalized computers. Competing firms such as Compaq took advantage of second mover advantages. Since IBM had already done all the hard work involved in coming up with the PC, Compaq only had to improve it. The latter firm was a clone manufacturer that had worked with IBM; it upgraded the 1981 IBM PC by increasing processing capacity from 16 bits to 32 bits.

Therefore, second movers could avoid heavy expenditures on research and development. Additionally, the company’s operational costs were too high as the company did not develop more cost effective production strategies. IBM had initially banked on its strong brand image for success of the 1981 PC; however, it needed to work on other features such as new product development.

The firm became complacent and failed to position itself effectively in the market. It wanted to meet everyone’s needs, and thus ended up loosing most clients. Competitors learnt from these mistakes and offered specialty products. They responded to the fast-paced computer industry faster than IBM could.

Another shortcoming was IBM’S inability to control the manufacture of components. Since the firm had outsourced these services to Intel and Microsoft, it was not possible to enjoy royalties from these firms. It should have amended this error by buying out the firms. Intel and Microsoft eventually outpaced IBM in the computing industry. These organizations did not repeat the same mistakes that the first mover made. Besides that, they did not have to invest in consumer education as customers were already aware of the product (Schnaars 90).

Sony did not maintain first mover advantage too. However, unlike IBM’s PC, which was simply upgraded by competitors, the Walkman was overtaken by technology. The portable audio industry has seen the creation of new types of devices such as the iPod by Apple. The Walkman was bulky, had minimal storage capacity and its music quality was quite low.

Although Sony responded by created CD players and MP3 players such as the NW-E series, that relied on USB technologies, other inventions had already been perfected and introduced by different inventors, such as Apple, Rio or HP. Sony also made mistakes in franchising and marketing its products.

Its competitors learnt from it and perfected their business models. Apple greatly controls the sale of its products through its wide network of franchises. The company’s marketing campaigns are often extraordinary. One only has to examine the launch of the iPod to believe this claim. Sony also had weaknesses in production; the firm’s competitors came up with better and more cost-effective ways of production. For instance, Apple’s products are produced by Taiwanese manufacturers thus making their prices highly competitive.

In conclusion, IBM and Sony were first movers because of their exceptional products; however, they did not sustain market leadership owing to their adoption of losing standards. Second movers took advantage of their mistakes and successes to develop even better products. They had to spend less time in research and development and could meet customer needs more directly than Sony and IBM could in their respective markets.

Works Cited

DuGay, Paul. Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman. London: Sage Publications, 1997. Print.

Schnaars, Steven. Managing initiation strategies: How later entrants seize markets from pioneers. NY: The Free Press, 1994. Print.

Spector, Lincoln. The PC at 20: The road from 1981’s IBM PC to today’s systems 2001. Web. ‹

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