"Please fax those documents across ASAP!"
"Sure thing. Uhwait! What's the make of your fax machine?"
Thankfully, we need not worry about such unnecessary details as all fax
machines use a common standard for data transmission. But left to itself, the
tech industry would have made the above conversation sound more familiar
than we can ever imagine.
Industry standards are critical as they assure interoperability and
Without proper standards, any new technological advancement is limited
to a particular product featuring those capabilities.
Take the case of data communications. A few years back Rockwell and
3Com touted different, competing technologies in their modems for pushing
transmission speeds to 56 kbps. Without the intervention of the ITU-T in cre-
ating the v.90 standard, datacom speeds would have been limited to 33.6 kbps
with us being caught in the middle of having to forcefully adopt one technol-
ogy (based on what our ISP supported) in order to get a speed boost. This in
turn would have limited our freedom of switching to another service provider
using a competing standard.
In established markets, market leaders, based on their sheer size and the
control they exercise, can split or create new standards. For instance, Intel was
late in introducing the SSE instruction set for speeding up multimedia applica-
tions (AMD was the pioneer with its 3DNow! technology). But owing to Intel's
market dominance, AMD is now forced to tout SSE compatibility in its proces-
sors as software vendors have adopted the Intel standard.
However, the battle for standards gains momentous proportions when it
comes to the adoption of new technologies in an emerging market. The current
mess of the rewritable DVD market can be squarely attributed to the lack of any
industry standard with two groups trying to lobby their competing technolo-
gies to the consumer.
The one-size-fits-all solution then is to have open standards owned by ven-
dor-neutral organisations, which anyone can use and implement. Case