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Table 2 Distinctions between strategy research on alliances, networks, and ecosystems

From: Ecosystems: broadening the locus of value creation

  Strategic alliances Strategic networks Business ecosystems
Definition Voluntary arrangements between firms involving exchange, sharing, or codevelopment of products,
technologies, or services (Gulati 1998).
Strategic networks are composed of interorganizational ties that are enduring, are of strategic significance for the firms entering them, and include strategic alliances, joint ventures, long-term buyer-supplier partnerships, and a host of similar ties (Gulati, Nohria, and Zaheer, 2000) Set of actors that contribute to the user value proposition of a focal product or service, designed with or without a platform-based technological architecture
Connections between firms Alliance Alliance Interdependence between activities/technologies
Unit of analysis Firm or alliance Firm or network (typically alliance) Innovation or firm or ecosystem
Key theoretical considerations Alliance governance (formal/relational), alliance capability, partners’ resources Structure of ties, access to information, status, brokerage (information, resources), embeddedness Structure of interdependence (technology, inputs-outputs), complements, bottlenecks, platforms