Platform Competition with Complementary Products

Article Source: Working Paper, 2008
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Competitive strategies of platform providers in the presence of complementary products.


Policy Relevance:

The relative quality of platforms and the number of complementary products compatible with each platform are important factors for platform providers to design optimal competitive strategies. The platform provides have incentives to engage in exclusive contracts with independent complementary firms. However, competition among platforms helps consumers, so these insights may have implications in antitrust enforcement.


Key Takeaways:
  • Complementarity Effects: All firms in a platform group benefit from an increase in the platform quality and the number of complementors that adhere to it. At the same time, these firms suffer from an increase in the platform quality and in the number of complementors in the rival group. Therefore, both platforms have strong incentives to compete for the limited number of complementors available in the market.

  • Exclusivity: Each platform provider has incentives to sign exclusive agreements with each of its complementors, since such agreements increase the attractiveness of its own platform and reduces the attractiveness of the rival platform. The implications of exclusivity for consumer welfare depend on the degree of platform differentiation.

  • High-Definition DVD Market: The analysis is consistent with the recent battle between Sony and Toshiba for the new generation of high definition DVD standard.

  • Royalty vs. Subsidy: Platforms offer royalty or subsidy based on the elasticity of demand for complementary products.

  • Platform’s Ownership of Complementary Products. A platform has incentives to produce complementary products and make these available also to the customers of the rival platform (e.g., Microsoft Office Suite for Apple computers).



Guofu Tan

About Guofu Tan

Professor Tan's research focuses on auction theory, industrial organization, competition and regulatory policies, and the Chinese economy. His most recent work is concerned with collusion, entry, and resale in auction markets; competition in international telephone markets; Nash bargaining with non-convexity; platform competition and standardization; and economic analysis of competition policy and the implications for China. In addition to his academic positions, he is currently a senior consultant in Delta Economics Group.

Juan D. Carrillo

About Juan D. Carrillo

Juan D. Carrillo is a Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California, a Research Fellow in the Industrial Organization and Public Policy programs of the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). His areas of specialization are neuroeconomic theory, microeconomic theory, industrial organization, behavioral economics, and experimental economics.