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Copyright

Title: Harvard Business Review on Managing High-Tech Industries
Author: Various, compiled by Harvard Business School Press
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
Copyright: 1999
ISBN: 1-57851-182-8
Pages: 241
Price: $19.95
Rating: 89%
The Harvard Business Review has long distinguished itself as the touchstone publication for strategic business thought. The Harvard Business Review Paperback Series, of which Managing High-Tech Industries is a part, brings together the what the editors feel are the best articles in on a given subject. The editors chose well, for a number of reasons.

The articles, originally printed from 1993 to 1997, discuss topics from technology integration to defining next-generation products. There is also a nice distribution of theoretical and practical topics - while many of the articles are very practical, they also contain theoretical components. W. Brian Arthur's "Increasing Returns and the New World of Business" tends toward the theoretical end of the scale. The article describes increasing returns, an economic principle which states that, in certain industries, companies that get ahead of their competitors will tend to get farther ahead and followers will tend to get farther behind. Many high-tech industries evince increasing returns because of the high up-front costs of entering a field like computer hardware, software, and biological engineering; network effects (where, like fax machines, the more people who own a product, the greater its value); and customer lock-in (where products can't be substituted for one another - all cars are compatible with a nation's highways, but not all software products are compatible with all operating systems, or each other, thus a tendency to standardize). Arthur's arguments, while mentioned in several books published after the original 1996 article but before this collection, challenge key assumptions of industrial economics and are vital knowledge for operating in the digital economy.

Morris and Ferguson's "How Architecture Wins Technology Wars", which describes how Silicon Valley companies fight to influence hardware and software standards, touches on many of the topics mentioned in Arthur's piece and, in so doing, illustrates another of the strengths of Managing High-Tech Industries: the interconnectedness of the articles selected. For instance, while several of the articles deal with research and development (R&D), they deal with different aspects of the process. Just as it's allegedly possible to reach any topic in the Encyclopaedia Britannica by following cross-references from other topics, so is it possible to trace a line from one article to the next. The articles are arranged in reverse chronological order by publication date, but the modular nature of the book makes it possible for readers to skip around and experience the book in the way they feel will benefit them the most.

In sum, Harvard Business Review on Managing High-Tech Industries succeeds at bringing together the best articles on high-tech management from recent years of the Harvard Business Review. Though clearly targeted at senior managers, readers at all levels of the corporate hierarchy will gain valuable strategic insights into high-tech industries.

--Curtis D. Frye, Editor of Technology & Society Book Reviews

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