Qualitative Analysis and Comparison of Firm and System Incumbents in the New ICT Global Innovation Network

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This paper presents a qualitative analysis of the changing fortunes of firms and territorial innovation systems in the emergent handheld devices segment of the global innovation network (GIN) in information and communication technology (ICT). The conceptual approach draws fairly lightly upon evolutionary complexity theory from which important concepts such as “path interdependence” “strange attractors” and system “self-organization” derive. In this version of a suite of papers on the GINs topic, particular emphasis is placed upon supply chain displacements of western chipmakers by Asian chipmakers from the first and second versions of the Apple “smartphone”, forerunner of its equally successful “tablet” technology. These are the apotheosis of innovative “convergence” in which knowledge recombination produces unanticipated novelty in products and services. It is shown how Apple, like earlier transitioning ICT firms such as IBMMicrosoft and, more recently, Hewlett Packard, engaged in “modularization” largely by acquisition in order to re-position themselves in new global markets. Spatial proximites and policies are seen as crucial to many of the processes described.