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Title: Latecomer firms and pursuit of a dual frontier : the case of Korean handset manufacturers
Author: Park, Dong Un
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 4267
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2016
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The subject of this thesis is a group of emergent leading firms in developing countries pursuing a ‘dual frontier', achieving technology supremacy and establishing market autonomy, and entering a newly emerging market in the context of the latter half of the 20th century. Whilst the previous literature on catching-up and transition generally centres on the area of technological development of latecomer firms, this thesis extends the scope of analysis to a broader issue of technological development and marketing strategies of latecomer firms in transition. The thesis builds upon two different streams of literature: first the catching-up process in latecomer firms for the theoretical and empirical rationales, and second the boundaries of a firm and inter-firm coordination in technological frontier firms for the theoretical guidance to a systematic analysis. Using industry case studies of the Korean mobile handset manufacturers Samsung and LG Electronics, the thesis first shows that there could be windows of opportunity available for international technology transfer to emergent leading firms in the emerging stage of a new industry from competition to achieve a dominant compatibility standard among technology leaders. However, the research stresses that the characteristic of these technologies is cutting-edge but technologically incomplete and commercially unproven, which highlights the importance of previous experience and capacity for successful commercialisation. Moreover, the thesis shows that Korean firms pursuing a dual frontier overcame their uneven development between technological and marketing capabilities through intensive inter-firm collaborations with intermediary users, that is Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). In the thesis, it is stressed that Korean firms competed against technology leaders like Nokia in export markets by complementing weak marketing capabilities based on continuous collaborations with MNOs, evolving from von Hippelian to Teecean inter-firm relationships. Lastly, the thesis introduces to the literature on industry organisation a new form of an outsourcing organisation, termed a ‘contract developer' (CD), which has been identified as a group of firms that is unilaterally specialised in, and that carries out development outsourcing projects for, mobile handset Own Brand Manufacturers (OBMs). The thesis reveals that CDs emerged from the industry shake-out and the co-specialised structure between mobile handset OBMs and MNOs in the industry and served as one of main mechanisms that supported the successful globalisation of the Korean firms. Therefore, the thesis argues that the key strategy that Korean emergent leading firms adopted to compete at the world frontier can be described as a ‘quasi' extension of firm boundaries in terms of development resources (the CDs) and in terms of downstream capabilities (the MNOs).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HE9713 Cellular telephone services industry. Wireless telephone industry