Yesterday's Startup School provided much food for thought, and possibly a few blog posts.
I wondered if that was true, and if so -- why is tech so special.
He offered Sybase as an example. He said it was an excellent database, but it was number two and eventually Oracle came to dominate. Does anyone still use Sybase?
But in many consumer categories there are plenty of number two's -- Avis to Hertz. Pepsi to Coke. The Rolling Stones to the Beatles. Ries and Trout in all their books, talk about there being three rungs on the ladder. One and two make most of the money, with one making far more than two. And three hangs on, barely.
Then I thought about it some and realized there are quite a few examples in tech where no single product dominates.
In web browsers there's Chrome, MSIE, Firefox, Opera.
In mobile OSes there's iOS and Android.
In desktop OSes, there's Macintosh, Windows and Linux.
In browser-based email there's Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail.
Search has Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Perhaps this is sour grapes by Andreeesen infecting their investment thesis? He most decidedly ended up in a number two position in the browser market (and server market, and web authoring market, and every other market Netscape was in.)
All of the places you mention that there's competition seem to be broad platforms or commodity services without much visible differentiation to an average consumer but with loyal platform participants.
Likewise, it seems that for widely performed IT functions, there generally IS a best practice. It is a serial progression of products leapfrogging other products. Sometimes they stay neck-and-neck (e.g., iOS and Android) and sometimes the divergence exceeds #2's ability to catch up (Netscape for example, or Quarterdeck from my own experience).
This seems like lawyerspeak. It takes an unspecified--and perhaps very long--amout of time to "end up as number two" (and to "end up going out of business" after that). If you're strict in deciding what a "tech category" is, two products that do the same thing might not be in the same one.
Or it's bullshit.