‘Standards’ help to reduce costs and move technology into the hands of more people. ‘Standards’ are everywhere, right?
Hard drives. Tires. DVDs. TVs. Clothing. Electricity. When you stop to look closely, ‘standards’ just aren’t what they’re supposed to be. Take DVDs, for example…
Wait. Let me preface that with a little definition and some other examples of ‘standards’ that really are not standard.
Merrium-Webster defines ‘standard’ as: 3 : something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example : CRITERION
4 : something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality.
We think of electricity as a ‘standard’ because most applicances are built to conform to the electricity provided by the power company.
We think of CDs as a ‘standard’ because most CDs work in most CD players and play music. We think of PC CDs as a ‘standard’ because they usually work fine in most computers, Mac or Windows, to burn music or data.
“So, what’s the problem, Tera”, you ask. “Found a standard you don’t like?” Well, no and yes. ‘Standards’ are becoming a problem, not a solution, and I’m convinced that Apple will benefit by pulling together standards to make life easier for users.
The closer I look at so-called ‘standards’ the more obvious it is that a ‘standard’ is simply a defined list of features that works most of the time. Standards will continue to fragment as new technology is introduced. Keeping up with the changes in ‘standards’ will become more difficult, not easier.
Take DVDs. Please. Walk into any computer store and the number and types of CDs and DVDs is overwhelming. I’ve been using computers for years and I don’t think I could explain it to someone who doesn’t know.
There’s the DVDs you buy that play movies on your DVD player. Mostly, they’ll also play on your Mac or PC. Then, when you buy blank DVDs, there’s the DVD-R format. That’s most common.
There’s also the DVD+R format. And the DVD-RW format. And somewhere on the list is the DVD-ROM format, and the DVD-RAM format.
The only thing ‘standard’ appears to be sticking ‘DVD’ in front of the proprietary standard pushed by various industry giants like Sony, Phillips, toshiba, HP, Matsushita/Panasonic.
John Dvorak has a wonderful rant from years past on the DVD wars.
Coming up? Another war over standards. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DVD. What’s affected? The future of home and personal technology. Who’s affected? You and me (assumes we plan to live in the future).
In a nutshell, the VHS and Sony Betamax wars are being played out again. Will there be a clear-cut winner? I don’t think so. Just look at the rest of the ‘standards’ of the world.
Toshiba is pushing HD-DVD and Sony is pushing Blu-Ray.
Blue-Ray is a huge leap forward with excellent copyright protection built in, Java menu software, and very high storage capability (50 gigs to 100 gigs per disc).
Huge movie studios such as Sony, Fox, and Disney have committed to Blu-Ray. Sony wants Blu-Ray to push the PlayStation of the future.
On the other side of the future is Toshiba’s HD-DVD which is cheaper than Blue-Ray but still has excellent HD quality video.
Who’s on HD-DVD’s side? Microsoft and Toshiba and Universal Studios (Paramount and Warner have agreed to back both until there’s a winner).
Where’s Apple sitting? They support Blu-Ray, opposite Microsoft.
How about the manufacturers? These are the big Japanese, Korean, and Chinese box makers who churn out players by the gazillions. Chances are they will produce boxes that play both, and play one or the other.
Confused? Welcome to the club. But get used to it. My take on all this is that the age of true ‘standards’ (if it ever existed at all) is past us, and the future will be a fragmented and confounding list of ‘standards’ that do pretty much the same thing, do it pretty much the same way, but don’t play nice-nice with each other.
I’m really sick and tired of the whole mess, but I’m also confident that Apple is in a unique position to bring together many of the best ‘standards’ to provide us with a good experience that negates the problems with so many ‘standards.’
Apple’s iPod has become hugely popular because most people, though they want choice, don’t want too many choices, and incompatibility isn’t choice. The iPod ecosystem works well on Mac or PC, works well for most users, and the choices are sufficient to satisfy about 80-percent of portable music users.
Apple has created the defacto ‘standard’ experience of portable music and online music purchases out of available standards. That’s the way of the future. The ability to make the so-called ‘standards’ play nice-nice with each other will be Apple’s future.
Jack D. Miller
At first, I thought you were way off base with this rant. I was looking for ‘standards’ that didn’t apply to your premise, like automobile tires. The longer I thought about it, the only standard among tires is that they’re round.
Sometimes we assume that ‘standard’ is literal. Even movie DVDs are not standard. Can you say ‘regions?’ I think you’re right. Apple’s ability to adopt, adapt to a host of standards and making them play well together may be an edge that Microsoft never adopts.
Carol Mary Miller
How about metrics? Aren’t those a standard that everyone uses? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of the ‘metric system?’ Hmmm. Never mind.
There’s not even a standard for ‘water’ anymore. Walk into any grocery store and there’s twenty kinds of bottled water.