As discussed in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, the existing business theories and schools of thought frequently adopt a neo-classical approach to strategy (Colander 2000), using materials developed during the 1960s and 1970s (Chandler 1962; Ansoff 1965; Andrews 1971; Porter 1979). This approach views strategic analysis as technically rational (Stacey 2007) © The Author(s) 2017

N. Walton, The Internet as a Technology-Based Ecosystem, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-60077-6_5

and makes use of models and concepts from a manufacturing era that preceded the birth of the Internet. Although the models and concepts discussed in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 appeared to be highly appropriate for the analysis of the ‘new age’ firms, Chapter 5 will explore the extent to which the Internet can be considered to be an ecosystem in its own right, and it will seek to develop an alternative and more suitable ICT ecosystem taxonomy for analysing modern Internet-based technology companies and their new source of competitive advantage - data, information, knowledge and innovation.

What is proposed is an analogical reasoning approach. This involves taking structured knowledge from a familiar systems biology domain and applying it in a new setting such as ICT. Deep-sea hydrothermal vent (HTV) ecosystems have been selected as the basis for the analogy (Van Dover 2000) and will attempt to establish how far the disciplines of business strategy and biology can provide an effective framework for analogical reasoning.

The HTV ecosystem model provides a good basis for comparison with modern technology-based industries because the hydrothermal vents occur spontaneously (in the form of white or black ‘smokers’) and grow to a large size very quickly (Van Dover 2000). The life cycles of the vents are also limited to between 10 and 50 years, although these cycles are often shorter. This is not dissimilar to the rapid levels of innovation, instability and growth that have occurred in technology industries, particularly those that harness Internet technologies. This is what Amrit Tiwani referred to as ‘compressed evolution’ (Tiwani 2014: 15). Particularly relevant areas of focus in the analogy include the nature of hydrothermal vents and their geological characteristics; the trophic structure of the deep-sea vent ecosystem and the processes of reproduction and dispersal (Van Dover 2000).

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