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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Standardization & Early Adopters

As I prepare to attend this event today - am back in singapore after a long time -I came across this article on early adoption of standards. Peter Seebach reasons that before a standard becomes widely adopted, some ambiguity always exists about whether it will succeed. Even a standard formally endorsed by a major organization might turn out to be simply ignored by the marketplace. Adopting a standard before it has become fully established has advantages and disadvantages. The primary advantages of early adoption include influence on the early standard and competitive advantage over latecomers. If a standard related to your development efforts is forming, you might benefit greatly from involvement in the standards process. For that matter, the standards process is quite likely to benefit from additional input from people with expertise in the field. Not all of the advantages of standard interfaces and designs apply to early adopters. One can't take advantage of economies of scale right away. Still, the essential points are still there - better interoperability and reduced design costs. One can easily overlook the cost of developing a specification solid enough to build products on, but you can hardly miss the comparatively huge cost of trying to debug a product update that is almost compatible when your specification isn't precise enough. If forced to adopt a standard which does not seem to be quite stable yet, look for anchoring on the crucial basic principles of standardization.
One of the potential benefits of being one of the first vendors to adopt a new standard is beating competitors to market. Unfortunately, this can result in an attitude of competitiveness that can wreck a potential standard for everybody. Remember that standardization is about interoperability first and foremost. If competitiveness between prospective partners in a standardization effort sinks the standard, everybody loses. The early phases of standardization offer a severe temptation to break with the standard to obtain. Even though early adoption has its pitfalls, it offers the chance to improve the standards process and get better standards adopted sooner. I fully agree with the view that even if a standard planned to be adopted isn't quite ready, it might give one a head start on working with the final standard when it becomes available. The work required to adapt to last-minute changes is likely to be easier than the work of overhauling an entire design. A positive attitude towards interoperability, testing, and cooperation with other vendors and developers can make a standard succeed, which is generally good for everybody. As we noted earier,an ecosystem beats a product because its collective of competitors can explore and invest in many more ideas than any single company can muster. In an ecosystem, all the players share some key components despite claims of standardisation forcing commoditization.

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