Apple Computer's recent domination of the digital music environment provides a surprising example of the disadvantages of being first to market. The innovative computer company that has become a leading force in the music space appears to have built a core strength around figuring out how to succeed at being a deliberate and very smart second (or even third) to market.
Indeed, with such prominent early exceptions as the mouse and the graphical user interface, Apple has rarely succeeded because of an appreciable first-to-market advantage. NEC beat Apple to the notebook computer, and Rio and Eiger Labs both had MP3 players long before the iPod was ever introduced. Sony's ACID, Cakewalk's Pyro, and others offered desktop music-editing software before Apple ever released its option.
He spends most of the article talking about Garageband which is a very good product. But something I remember happening that just a few weeks after Garageband came out, still in that experimental time people give a new product, Howard Dean gave his infamous Dean scream. Suddenly there were not just jokes but dozens of Dean scream remixes all over the internet most done in Garageband. That was pure luck for Apple but every little bit helps.
There is a lot to be said for a Second to Market strategy. During the Dot Boom there was a lot of push towards being first to market but I never saw the utility of it, few companies that came up with something new succeeded. Usually the cost of development was so high it was unsustainable.
If you want to do something new in the market it seems much smarter to enter fast & cheap, not to spend too much on R&D and then copy yourself with the things that you learned to make it better, just like another second to market company. The R&D costs are sunk, so don't worry about them but you get that data faster then anyone else and use that to your advantage.