Our inductive study examines entry-timing decision making in the mobile handset industry during the feature-phone era. Combining qualitative and quantitative data, we reveal that managers’ awareness of the risk-return trade-off in the timing of feature entry makes them deliberately configure their innovation strategy. If they follow an early-mover strategy, they address the greater, more uncertain revenue opportunities with broader, less selective feature portfolios. Conversely, firms choosing to move late target lower, more certain revenue opportunities with narrower, more selective portfolios.
Entry timing per se seems unrelated to performance, but we do find indication of a performance effect of aligning entry timing with other strategic choices, especially as regards portfolio breadth. These findings extend theory on technology entry timing and the strategic management of innovation more generally. Future research on the two strategic configurations we propose – broad/non-selective for early movers and narrow/selective for late movers - may invigorate and help resolve the on-going debate about the link between entry timing and performance