Syllabus - December 13, 1996 version
15.841 Special Seminar in Marketing:
Marketing High-Tech Products
Class meets MW, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM, E51-325.
- Professor Anirudh Dhebar
- E56-329, Tel.: 3-5056, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Staff Assistant: Ken Pierce (2:00 PM - 5:30 PM)
- E56-364, Tel.: 3-0495
To introduce students to some of the special challenges of marketing high-tech products -- when the products are being conceived, when they are first introduced, and well into their life. Of course, not everything is unique about high-tech products, and many of the building blocks you acquired in the foundation "15.810 Marketing Management" course continue to apply. We will take that -- and your knowledge of the building blocks -- as given and move on to where the real action is: dynamic product contexts fraught with significant technological and market uncertainty.
While the focus of the course is "high-tech" in the general sense, all the reading materials -- cases, notes, and articles from the popular and learned press -- are drawn from what is colloquially referred to as the "information technology" industry: computer hardware and software, consumer electronics, telecommunications, and content. Students are encouraged to interject parallels from non-IT, but otherwise high-tech, settings in the course of class discussion.
The course will sample both consumer and business-to-business (industrial) product contexts.
The course consists of five modules:
- Introduction. When it comes to marketing, why are high-tech products special?
- Marketing and Strategy at the High-Tech Frontier. Before delving into the details, we will frame the larger context by studying three specific settings (a brand-new company just starting out in a field that itself is just starting out, a now-established player in the computer business, and a company in the traditional-format content business under siege and transformation in the digital age) and the sense of chaos characterizing the concerned industries.
- Bringing New High-Tech Products to Market. From demand forecasting to product positioning to distribution to managing new-product diffusion, high-tech products pose some special challenges, and this will be the thrust of the third module, which will also provide the students an opportunity to apply their learning to some hot-off-the-press new-product settings (with analysis and recommendations due in the form of a written report).
- Managing Product Maturity and Positioning for the Future. Once products have been introduced in the market, the product offering must be managed: improvements made, features enhanced, new versions launched, older versions retired, prices and distribution reconsidered, commoditization avoided, and so on. What are the special marketing challenges? This module, too, will involve one written assignment.
- Wrapping Up. Summary, reflection, and closure.
A detailed course schedule is presented on pages 3-4 of this syllabus. As the schedule suggests, the course is structured around a mix of cases, notes, readings, and lectures.
Before each class, you will receive discussion questions by e-mail. To facilitate this process, please add yourself to the class distribution list by sending an e-mail message to
with the line
subscribe 15.841-students userid@host your name
in the body of the message. For example, student Jane Smith with e-mail address email@example.com would send the message
subscribe 15.841-students firstname.lastname@example.org Jane Smith
Make sure that the word "subscribe" is at the beginning of the line.
As part of the course, you will be required to submit two written analyses; these are due at the beginning of class on Monday, March 17, and Wednesday, April 23. While details will follow, the assignments are team projects and you should form teams of three to four as soon possible to facilitate the process.
There will be a final examination at the end of the course. Its date, time, and location will be announced once these are finalized.
In grading the course, class discussion and comments will count toward 30% of the final grade, the two written analyses 15% each, and the final examination 40%.
Course materials are available from Graphic Arts; additional materials will be distributed in class on an ad hoc basis.
Session # Day/Date
1 W, 2/5 (Lecture)
- Note: High-Tech vs. Low-Tech Marketing: Where's the Beef?
- Reading: Shanklin, W.L. and J.K. Ryans, "Organizing for High-Tech Marketing"
Marketing and Strategy at the High-Tech Frontier
2 M, 2/10
3 W, 2/12
- Case: Dell Computer Corporation
4 Tu, 2/18
5 W, 2/19 (Lecture)
- Reading: Prokesch, S.E., "Mastering Chaos at the High-Tech Frontier: An Interview with Silicon Graphic's Ed McCracken"
- Reading: Business Week, "The Technology Paradox"
Bringing New High-Tech Products to Market
6 M, 2/24
- Case: Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)
7 W, 2/26
- Case: Chemical Bank: The Pronto System
8 M, 3/3
- Case: American Mobile Satellite Corporation
9 W, 3/5
- Case: IBM: A Product for Managing Local Area Networks (A)
10 M, 3/10 (Lecture)
- Reading: The Economist, "The Third Age [A Survey of the Computer Industry]"
- Reading: Business Week,"The Wave of Gizmos Coming Soon From Japan"
11 W, 3/12; 12 M, 3/17 Written Assignment #1 (Due: M, 3/17)
- Reading: Wall Street Journal, "Informix Revamps Database Technology"
- Reading: New York Times, "Picture It: More Paths to Profits"
- Reading: New York Times, "Defining TVs and Computers For a Future of High Definition"
Managing Product Maturity and Positioning for the Future
13 M, 3/31 (Lecture)
- Reading: Dhebar, A., "Speeding High-Tech Producer, Meet the Balking Consumer"
14 W, 4/2
- Case: Intel Corporation: Going Into OverDrive
15 M, 4/7
- Case: Teradyne, Inc., 1979: Semiconductor Test Division (A)
16 W, 4/9
- Case: Barco Projection Systems (A)
17 M, 4/14
- Case: Reuters Holdings PLC: Network Renewal and Product Integration (A)
18 W, 4/16
- Case: Nintendo and Its Three Video-Game Systems: The Technology and the Business of Fun
19 W, 4/23 Written Assignment #2
- Case: Rolm: The Sigma Introduction
20 M, 4/28
- Case: HBS Publishing Group: The Case of the (Electronic) Case
Reading: New York Times, "Are These Books, or What? CD-ROM and the Literary Industry"
21 W, 4/30 (Lecture)
- Reading: Business Week, "I Can't Work This Thing"
- Reading: March, A., "Usability: The New Dimension of Product Design"
- Reading: Dhebar, A., "Complementarity, Compatibility, and Product Change: Breaking with the Past?"
22 M, 5/5; 23 W, 5/7
- Case: The Introduction of FM Radio (A)
24 M, 5/12
- Reading: Virden, T.W., "Can This High-Tech Product Sell Itself?"
25 W, 5/14 (Lecture)
- Reading: The Economist, "Technology Brief" (A series of four)
- Reading: Dhebar, A., "Information Technology and Product Policy: 'Smart' Products"
-- Exam period