“The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has established a working group to develop a universal docking standard for portable devices, the US-centric organisation announced this week,” Tony Smith reports for The Register. “The move is being driven by Microsoft – at least, the software giant is the only company to be granted quotation space on the CEA press release, and there’s a Microsoft staffer in the working group’s chair. It’s not hard to see why. Having failed to beat the iPod using proprietary technology – the Windows Media format – it’s try to beat it using a sharper weapon: the open standard it defines.”
“Apple’s iPod owes its success to many factors, not least of which is the company’s decision to develop the player’s dock connector. Where other music player makers have simply stuck in a USB port and and left it at that, the proprietary dock connector has provided the perfect foundation for a whole range of iPod accessories that have, in turn, helped the small white player on its way to mainstream market dominance,” Smith reports.
Smith writes, “If Apple follows the standards process and adopts whatever specification the CEA team comes up with, it still finds itself up against competitors whose players have as many accessories as the iPod does and, worse, risks alienating owners of older iPods for whom potential purchases will fade away as the classic iPod dock connector becomes increasingly irrelevant. This is an issue for Apple because it’s a hardware company. It’s not an issue for Microsoft, because it sells software and as long as somebody makes hardware that uses its code, it wins. It has no vested interest in hardware beyond that need, whereas Apple’s success is predicated upon designing and selling great hardware.”
“Apple’s best option – ‘least-worse’ might be better – would be to co-opt the standards process by proposing its existing specification as the de facto standard,” Smith writes. “That way, at least, it’s not going to have to spend years ignoring the growing support for the rival specification, only to have to cave in to market forces and support it anyway. This way, it could also continue to earn royalty revenues, as it does with FireWire, for instance, but again loses the advantage it has gained to date from the iPod’s undeniably innovative dock concept.”
Full article here.
[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader, “Stoo,” for the heads up.]