For market research, pay for the best - it's cheap and you'll never change this for the rest of the game. This is a very easy decision, you want the best research available.
Next, let's talk product design. You want to come up with your strategy early and stick to it. For my team, that meant we would never build a mercedes (the innovator sells GREAT in the mercedes market anyway, further increasing demand for your highest margin product), and we were late to enter the workhorse market - relying on building a fast follower. Initially we focused on grabbing the lucrative innovator market, built a cost cutter that we viciously undercut the price on, and then entered the laptop market immediately when available. The innovator and laptop markets have the highest demand and margins - these are what you want to focus on. The only reason we went after the cost cutter was to keep the other teams from being successful. It is actually highly beneficial to have a HUGE demand that you cannot fill in this market in the early game, so long as it does not cause your factory to attempt to produce them.
As far as I could gather, price is king in this segment in the early game, and other teams usually are not very aggressive. Try to undercut them by at least 100, and continue to do so each quarter so you always stay a step ahead. Use the price rebates on the cost cutter and work horse brands, only 50% of those will count against you - and you might not even produce these from the factory after all. Demand for your other two products could be so high that you barely make these, and that's desirable. Eventually the factory capacity will be large enough that you can produce 3 and then 4 product lines, and the volume discounts will make it profitable to sell the lower two segments. But early on, we preferred to generate tons of demand for the cost cutter, hardly produce them at all, and just deal with the negative demand effects. Because of the low volumes you will be producing...
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