Sunday, July 03, 2005

Pushing the Boundaries of Tech

A discussion over at This Week in Tech Episode 11 about Ultra Wide Band (UWB) got me thinking about how technologies evolve. We all know computers are built on standards. We have hardware standards such as PCI and IDE and software ones such as HTTP. How exactly did these standards evolve?

The trend I've seen is there are two or three possible standards for any emerging technology. The driving force behind these competing psuedo-standards are corporations such as Sony or Phillips. For example, a media standard will replace DVDs in a few years. But which one? We don't know yet. Blu-Ray and HD DVD are fighting it out to answer that very question.

The only certain thing is that the market makes the final decision. There is no guarantee the "best" technology is the one that wins. Betamax was a much better standard than VHS but it didn't win.

I'm interested in learning if there is a way we can predict which standards will emerge victorious. Is there a way to look at data from past standard wars and make a good guess for the future? If there are any trends, how can we use them to better technology for all of us? In a way it's like predicting the outcome of an election. Instead of the voting population we have the market. Emerging formats are the candidates.

I'm planning to do extensive research on this subject. I'm hoping to find something of value that can answer the questions above. I'll keep everyone updated on my progress.

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