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Vertical differentiation, product innovation, and dynamic competition

David P. Baron

Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 2020, vol. 29, issue 3, 635-662

Abstract: This paper presents an infinite horizon dynamic model in which two firms compete in a market vertically differentiated by the qualities of their products and consumers have heterogeneous preferences for quality. Given the product qualities offered, the firms engage in price competition that segments the market. In each period each firm can spend on product innovation that if successful increases the quality of its product. Three types of Markov perfect equilibria are identified. A running–coasting equilibrium exhibits increasing quality dominance with one firm undertaking innovation and the other coasting to free ride on the innovation by the first firm. The firm that coasts can have the larger dynamic payoff, so quality dominance does not imply payoff dominance. A second is a leap‐frog equilibrium in which the trailing firm undertakes innovation to leap into the lead. The trailing firm never innovates solely to narrow the gap with the leader, so catch up strategies are never used. In the third both firms undertake innovation, but if both have innovation successes, product differentiation remains the same and profits are reduced by the cost of innovation. The rivalry between Intel and AMD in microprocessors for personal computers provides a motivating example.

Date: 2020
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