I got to thinking the other day about how when certain new ideas in our market get a head start, they manage to get a virtual monopoly. Take the Microsoft operating system. Sure, it wasn’t the first out there, but thanks to Bill Gates, it has dominated the O/S market since its launch. Having tie-ins with PCs has helped, even though some of the Windows operating systems have been dogged by bugs. People buy it because they don’t know any different, or cant’ be bothered trying out other systems, or don’t have a choice if it is preinstalled on their PC.Another example is the iPod. Once digital music superseded the discman, Apple’s iPod was up and running and every other player has been trying to play catch up since. It’s not just a case of having a product that people like, it is giving new iterations extras, so that by the time the competition does catch up, they are one step ahead by offering more features and functionality. Being first in the cue doesn’t necessarily mean the most success. Yahoo! was launched a good two years ahead of Google. It managed to get a huge slice of the search engine pie, but over the past 10 years Google has dominated in the lucrative western world markets – in some cases by as much as 70-80 percent. Microsoft’s recently launched Bing search engine is claimed to be making inroads in some areas, but again, it is due to the company giving it more features than Google is currently offering. These days, the speed of change can either hinder or help a company. The lead times between a new product, and something else coming along making it passe is getting shorter. What will make a company a market leader, it not only a funky new product, but one that not only has technology that the competition doesn’t have, but the ability to build on it in a quick timely fashion, and therefore keeping one step ahead of rivals.