Inderscience Publishers

Emerging digital technology as a window of opportunity and technological leapfrogging: catch-up in digital TV by the Korean firms

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This paper has examined the leapfrogging thesis with the case of catch-up in digital TV by the Korean firms. Despite the disadvantages implied by the technological regime of digital TV and the risks facing early entrants in trajectory choice and initial market formation, the Korean firms had achieved a 'path-creating catch-up' in the sense they chose a different path from the forerunning Japanese firms. As they have been closely watching the technological trends and the standard setting process, there was less risk of choosing the right or wrong technological trajectory. Also, despite the lack of sufficient capability and core knowledge base, the Korean firms had some complementary assets, such as the experience of producing analogue TV, and were able to develop the prototype digital TV and the ASIC chips, given the accesses to the foreign knowledge via overseas R&D posts and acquisition of a foreign company. To secure the initial market size, the Korean targeted the US market from the beginning, and their sources for competitive advantages were the speedy setting up the production system for mass production of products at the initial stage. The initial failure of the Japanese firms and the success of the Korean firms do suggest that the period of paradigm shift, like this toward digital technology, can serve as a window of opportunity for latecomers while penalising the forerunner.

Keywords: digital technology, emerging technology, paradigm shift, high-tech industries, technological regime, catching-up pattern, manufacturing strategy, policy, economics, technology management, Korea, digital TV, digital television, technological catch-up, competitive advantage, technology latecomers

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