The Standards Blog


Sunday, January 10th, 2010 @ 01:54 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 45,276

Think of the words "standards war," and unless you're a standards wonk like m...oh, never're likely to think of the battle between the Betamax and VHS video tape formats.  That's because videos are consumer products that just about everyone uses, and therefore the bloodshed in that standards war was not only shed in public view, but the some of the blood that was shed was shed by the public (i.e., those that bought video players supporting Betamax, the losing, but arguably superior, format).  Fast forward (pun intended) to the present, and the trademarks "HD DVD and "Blu-ray" may ring a bell - and that's no coincidence.

Why?  Because different industries have different business models and strategies that involve standards, and these often perpetuate over time - decades, in this case.  In the case of the consumer electronics sector, that culture has too often been one of a patent-based, winner take all effort to cash in big time while your competitors take it on the chin.  And it's not just media formats, either.  As I noted in a blog entry a few weeks ago, we're seeing the same type of behavior in eBook readers.  Since there's only one market, and the market demands one format to win in the end, that means that the camp that owns the bundle of patents underlying the winning format standard wins a bonanza. 

Why? because the losers must pay through the nose for the license rights to build the players that implement the format standard that wins.  The winners, on the other time win twice: once, by receiving the royalties, and again, because their own players have a lower cost to produce, because they don't have to pay royalties to themselves.

So guess what?  Here we go again, but with a bit of a twist this time.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 @ 11:32 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 23,966

Earlier this week, I noted the fact that the 100 day mark for the CodePlex Foundation had passed (on December 19) without any comment from the Foundation on how they had fared against their aggressive goals for that time period, including the replacement of the founding, interim Board of Directors, with a permanent board. 

That blog entry sparked a call from the Foundation's PR firm, and an opportunity for me to spend an hour on the phone with Sam Ramji, the interim President of the Foundation, and Foundation Deputy Director Mark Stone during which we covered a lot of ground, including what's been accomplished so far, what the Foundation has learned so far, how that has affected its planning, and what we can expect to be announced in the short term and long term future.  They also informed me that a press release covering some of the same topics would be issued today.  That announcement was posted to the Foundation Web site at Noon, and you can find it here (as usual, it's also pasted in at the end of this blog entry).

With that as prelude, here's what we talked about, and here's what I learned.

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 @ 08:08 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 12,847

As you may recall, Microsoft announced back on September 10 that it had launched a new foundation "as a forum in which open source communities and the software development community can come together with the shared goal of increasing participation in open source community projects."  It called it's new non-profit organization the CodePlex Foundation, echoing the name of a commercial site, called, that it had earlier set up to host open source development projects. 

Microsoft launched the CodePlex Foundation with bylaws and other governance documents with which I had some issues, and about which I posted some recommendations.  But it also publicly stated that these documents, and the initial boards of directors and advisors, were only temporary.  Within 100 days, the statements posted at the site pledged, a new Board would be announced.  Nominations for the Boards of Directors and Advisors were welcomed, as well as recommendations on changes to the governance documents.

But December 19 - the 100 day mark - passed quietly, with no announcement of a new Board or a status update on the other goals.  So what's up with the CodePlex Foundation, and its pledge to promptly transition into a more independent organization?

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 @ 07:51 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 14,901

Yesterday a very small company won a  very big victory against a very large software vendor.  The small company is i4i, a Canadian company that claimed that the large company had not infringed its patent accidentally, but knowingly and willfully, after engaging in discussions relating to the very same technology in question.  For the small company, the functionality in question represented its main product, so when the big company bundled the same technology for free in its own product, i4i's business was gutted.  If you've been following the story already, you know that the big company is Microsoft. 

Yesterday's big victory was the affirmation by an appellate court of the trial court's finding of willful infringement.  Under the ruling on appeal, Microsoft had been required to remove its infringing code within 60 days, and also pay i4i $290 million in damages due to the lost sales and other harm it had caused.  Here are my thoughts on what just happened, and what's likely to happen next.

Friday, December 11th, 2009 @ 06:49 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 9,870

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose
— French Proverb

Same old, same oldAh yes — "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Isn't that how the old saw goes? Or, in the more impatient parlance of today, simply "Same old, same old." So perhaps it should be no surprise that the old proverb would also hold true in the rough and tumble world of standards. And that is the case, not only generally, but more particularly in the suddenly hot war over eBook reader formats. This time around, though, there are a few new and interesting twists (on which more later).

What's the "same old" part all about? There are two alternate behavioral flavors: (1) try and set a de facto standard that you control, perhaps even obtaining a near monopoly in the process (the "winner takes all" strategy), and (2) pit your standard against another, where your standard gives you some relative, if not absolute, advantages (the "our team vs. their team" strategy).

In this case, it looks like Amazon is attempting to pull off the first, but in fact it's hard to tell whether they are serious, or just adopting a flawed strategy. Either way, I believe they will eventually have to admit defeat.

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 @ 10:00 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 8,516

According to Reuters, one more thread in the long-running saga of Rambus and the JEDEC SDRAM standards abuse saga appears to be reaching an end.  Specifically, the wire service reports:

European regulators are set to accept a proposal by Rambus Inc to cut royalties to settle antitrust charges, according to a person familiar with the situation,... Under the terms of the settlement,...Rambus will not be fined and will not be found liable for any wrongdoing, the source said....Rambus will also offer some of its older products for free as part of the settlement.

The story goes on to state that the regulators are expected to announce next Wednesday that they will accept without change the terms offered last June by Rambus.  If this is confirmed, Rambus will agree to cap its royalties at 1.5 percent to 2.65 percent per unit for identified types of SDR memory controllers and memory types for five years, beginning in 2010. 

If the settlement is announced as anticipated, U.S. regulators may wonder whether their brethren across the pond are better poker players than they are.

Monday, November 16th, 2009 @ 03:31 PM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 7,578

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} In a short while, an important vote will be taken in downtown Denver, Colorado.  If as expected that vote is in the affirmative, a unique and important public-private partnership will spring into being.  It will also have an extremely ambitious goal: to assess, assemble, explain and promote the complex and evolving web of standards that will be needed to make the vision of a Smart Grid in the United States a reality.  It will also mark the end of the first chapter in a journey that began with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

What is a Smart Grid, compared to what we have now?  Today, we have centralized  production of electricity, with distribution of that power being handled by somewhat interconnected, regional networks to commercial and home users.  We also have burgeoning green house gas emissions, growing dependence on foreign oil, both as a result of our need to keep increasing our generating capacity in order to meet whatever the peak national electrical need may be.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 @ 08:32 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 8,495

It's been more than a month since I last wrote about the CodePlex Foundation, the new open source initiative announced by Microsoft in early September. While things were pretty quiet at the Foundation site for some time, that changed on October 21, when the Foundation posted its new Project Acceptance and Operation Guidelines, a key deliverable that gives insight into a variety of aspects of the Foundation's developing purpose and philosophy.  A "house" interview of Sam Ramji (pictured at left) by Paul Gillin was posted a week later.

Surprisingly, though, there was very little pickup on any of this new information until yesterday (perhaps with a little nudging from the PR side of the house), when several stories popped up on line, including this one, at, and another at  Each is based on a conversation between Sam Ramji and the reporter (Sean Michael Kerner, at InternetNews, and Dana Blankenhorn, at 

In this blog entry, I'll give my impressions of how the CodePlex Foundation is developing, and (as before) my opinions on how effective the decisions being made are likely to be in achieving the Foundation's goals.

Monday, November 2nd, 2009 @ 12:01 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 10,493

ome of the most beautiful artistic treasures created during the millennium we refer to in the Western world as the Dark Ages are books — usually of a religious nature, they were transcribed by hand in sumptuously precise calligraphy, illuminated with wonderfully colorful and imaginative borders, and graced with elegant inset illustrations that were themselves jewels of inspiration, meticulously set down with pen, brush and burnisher in inks, tempera and gold leaf on laboriously stretched and scraped sheets of parchment. When complete, these beautiful pages were bound in volumes large and small, from enormous folios that were easily read in the pulpits of candlelit cathedrals, to breviaries that nestled comfortably in the pocket of a monk's cassock. Lovingly preserved through many centuries, they are as wonderful to observe today as they were when they were fresh from the standing desks of the monks who gave them birth.

Monday, October 26th, 2009 @ 12:01 AM
Contributed by: Andy Updegrove
Views: 6,777

One of the realities that every standards professional must deal with is the sad fact that everyone else in the world thinks that standards are…

     [start over; no one else thinks about standards much at all]

Ahem. One of the things that standards folks must come to terms with is the fact that on the rare occasions when anyone else thinks about standards at all, likely as not it's to observe that standards are…


[There. I've said it]

But really, now, this perception has got to change. And with the recent release of Dan Brown's latest pot boiler, The Lost Symbol, I believe I've figured out how to make standards really, really exciting. Really.