Many managers and students mistakenly presume that first movers always have an advantage in the marketplace. Of course, that is not the case. This article explores one key variable that may explain why first movers have advantages in some markets, but not others. It seems that the article is simply restating a notion that has been discussed previously in the strategy literature - i.e., if there are large spillover effects, whereby firms can easily capture the benefits of their rivals' learning curve economies, then first mover advantage wanes. Still, the researchers make a good point.
In fact, though, there are a number of reasons why first mover advantage may or may not exist in a particular industry. For instance, all else being equal, the presence of large network effects tends to create a first mover advantage. On the other hand, if scale economies are small and buyer switching costs are minimal, then this tends to favor followers rather than leaders.