The Pebble and the Avalanche

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Current Revolutions in Business and Technology

by Dr. Moshe Yudkowsky,

author of The Pebble and The Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions


Thu, 2010-May-27, 08:04

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Apple and Applications

I don't own an iPod, iPad, or iPhone because I object strongly to Apple's control over the devices. Apple simply won't let you put any application you like onto the device; they can even magically erase applications you've bought and paid for.

Of course this relates to disaggregation of ownership and authority. Google's Android phone — which allows anyone to not only create applications but even to manufacture the phone itself — poses a huge challenge to Apple. I've got an Android phone, and while I miss some of the applications that appear only on the iPhone, I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is and support the disaggregated, open platform.

Wed, 2006-Jul-19, 10:40

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Sometimes Standards Make the Standard Mistakes

Standards provide an excellent way to achieve disaggregation of authority and ownership, which results in both trust and sharing. To give an excellent but negative example, the coming battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD means that potential customers have no confidence (trust) that new-format DVDs they purchase today will still work two years from now.

Despite the positive results expected from standards, the people who work on standards can still make some pretty severe mistakes. An article in the IEEE Times discusses some pretty severe accusations of fraud in IEEE standards efforts:

That might have been a factor in the demise six months ago of the 802.15.3a [networking standards] task group, whose members had accused one another of ballot stuffing, filibustering and other delay tactics.
The IEEE had to suspend operations of another standards task group because of accusations against Intel and its WiMax partners:
"In late 2005, active membership in 802.20 [networking standards effort]--which had been around 65 or 70--suddenly ballooned by 350 percent, to more than 200, with Intel and WiMax partners representing the bulk of new participation," said Ronny Haraldsvik, vice president of broadband marketing at Qualcomm and former vice president of marketing at Flarion. "We think Intel was being deliberately disruptive in order to sink 802.20."
The problem is that each company can bring as many engineers as they like to a committee and can get their buddies to show up as well — and then they can vote to block the standard if it conflicts with their business model, and 802.20 might conflict with the WiMax business model.

The W3C, the World Wide Consortium that sets standards for the World Wide Web and and which I'm in the process of joining, recently came under criticism for disorganized and slow work.

Even though standards are a crucial and important form of disaggregation, they're still a political process; and any political process needs careful attention to work properly.