Monday, June 29, 2009

Anoraks, Standards and Micro USB

Jason Lackey

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that standards are something that only anoraks would care about. In some cases, there is some real world utility in knowing what is going on. For example, when buying WiFi, it might be helpful to understand that B/G/N routers running 2.4GHZ radios can get clobbered by microwave ovens, while 5.0GHZ kit is considerably less prone to such interference.

As the demo guy at InnoPath, I have been in more or less constant pain due to what should be a relatively easy problem to solve - charging mobile phones. One would think that something like this would be relatively standard, after all it is fairly well established how to get juice into the phone. However, until now there have been powerful incentives to not be standard. Some were actually altruistic - a desire to prevent the entry of soil and water contamination into the device. other reasons were less so - a proprietary connection helped ensure that the customer would come to you to pay $20 for a $1 part.

Earlier China, demonstrating one of the advantages of central administration, decided that there would be one standard for devices made in China and that would be Micro USB. Apple, Nokia, RIM and others have backed the European Commission and will be doing the same.

One interesting observation is that this illustrates a longstanding trend with the Rise of The Rest and how the US is no longer central to some fundamental industry moves.

The other is the benefit of standards, particularly to the little guy. In this case, the little guy is the consumer, who will now be in a better position to buy reasonably priced chargers which will work with just about any phone. The little guy will now get more for less with less grief, aggravation and hassle.

This also helps illustrate why InnoPath is such a strong backer of OMA-DM, the industry standard for device management. When phones are OMA-DM enabled, the little guy wins with a better user experience, superior support and fewer headaches and other pain.

Standards, not just for anoraks anymore.

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