Von Hippel questions

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Questions for Prof. von Hippel, Apr. 17 class:

  • In some instances, manufacturers produce a product with the expectation a user will modify parts of it. For example, Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) software packages such as UG NX and TeamCenter Engineering are built with a suite of tools available that all (or almost all) users find necessary. These programs also allow a high degree of user customization to tailor the product to the particular application. Individual users can re-work sections of code to customize the application. While this is similar in some aspects to open source development, it differs in that the UG kernel is still proprietary and a particular user’s innovations are not generally shared with others (partially because they are so user specific). Additionally, the manufacturer provides some level of support to aid users in customizing portions of the code.
    • To what extent are the positive aspects of user innovation realized in this model and to what extent are they limited?
    • Are there other (existing or potential) applications of user/manufacturer cooperation on innovation?
      • Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative is essentially a hybrid (or, more accurately, a trio of hybrids) of proprietary and open-source licensing and intellectual property models. It is clearly an attempt to enable and leverage user-driven innovation without completely relinquishing IP and related rights. Is this the best of both worlds? Or do the limitations in the Shared Source weaken some of the incentives for user innovation, both market and non-market?
  • Prof. von Hippel discusses the tendency of some users to reveal their innovations freely to the public. Although there are numerous examples of free revealing, I wonder how significant, on average, these innovations are. It seems that some of the innovations that are most significant to the market at large are often created and protected by large companies--I'm thinking here about medications, major software applications, etc. There seems to be a big difference between marginal modifications of library software and the new Windows platform. Chapter 6 offers some possible motivations to reveal innovations, but to what extent can we really expect innovators to reveal fundamental innovations that might enjoy large market share? As an empirical matter, how often does a freely revealed user innovation actually capture a larger market share than more protected innovations? Aren't user innovations more significant at making improvements at the margins?
  • The IP law is generally used, inter alia, to foster innovation in a system where the manufacturere is the center of the innovation development (by assuring that the cost e.g. R&D of those manufacturers will be recovered). Thus, the idea of user-centered innovation from Prof. Von Hippel's book means a different IP system - less restrictive but more flexible and more freely?
  • Prof. von Hippel: In chapter 8 you address a number of policy concerns that constrain user innovation. Your general recommendation is that user innovation needs to be considered as a part of social welfare. You dedicate a paragraph to "Control over Distribution Channels" that is basically speaking to the policy issue of 'net neutrality.' You argue that ownership of content and infrastructure should be separated (I assume through legislation?) but those who would argue the other side would likewise claim that social welfare is at stake and that innovation of infrastructure would be harmed by such separation. Why is the chilling effect on user innovation of applications at the ends more significant than the effect on innovation of the infrastructure? Is there a balance to be struck and would mandating a separation of ownership really achieve it
  • Can we characterize manufacturers as "users" of end-user input and innovation? How can we encourage manufacturers to distribute their own innovations in taking advantage of the user community? Do they lack the incentives typically associated with users, especially lead users? Does IP law threaten to inhibit the spread of these innovations?
  • Do you think your theory also applies to those low-tech or brand-driven products, such as makeups, etc., as technology is not the only value embedded in products.