Truth or Consequences: An Analysis of Vaporware and New Product Announcements

February 2001 | Parrish, Blake

The software industry practice of announcing new products well in advance of actual market availability has led to allegations that firms are intentionally engaging in vaporware. The possible predatory and anticompetitive implications of this behavior recently surfaced in the antitrust case United States v. Microsoft Corporation. Taking the perspective that a new product announcement is a strategic signal among firms, the authors consider the possibility that intentional vaporware is a way to dissuade competitors from developing similar new products. An examination of empirical data for the software industry suggests that some firms use vaporware in a strategic manner. The authors then formulate and analyze the preannouncement and introduction timing decisions in a game-theoretic model of two competing firms. They find that vaporware can be a way for a dominant firm to signal its product development costs and that intentional vaporware can deter entry. The authors also show that there is a curvilinear relationship between development costs and announcement accuracy; that is, firms with high or very low product development costs make accurate product announcements, whereas firms with intermediate product development costs intentionally engage in vaporware. Empirical support for these theoretical results is also found in the software industry data. Finally, the authors discuss the beneficial and harmful consequences of vaporware and the associated implications.



  • Barry L. Bayus
  • Ambar G. Rao


Journal of Marketing Research (JMR)