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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Competition

What do you do when two industry segments with overlapping constituencies decide to go in different directions with respect to standards?

It used to be the case that market forces would eventually work this out. This leads to a win/lose zero-sum game, as I've mentioned in the past. One standard (and vendors and providers who've adopted that standard) win, and others lose (as do the patients of those providers).

Who benefits from this competition? One can argue that we get better standards that way, just like we get better products from competition, but history shows this isn't always the case.
If we go back a decade or more, can we really say that VHS was technically any better than BetaMax? I've seen a number of technical arguments for the Beta format, but what really drove the success of VHS was that the suppliers of that technology had better marketing and penetration at the end.

Can anyone who purchased an Blu-Ray format DVD say that they've benefited from competition? Folks who purchased Blu-Ray format may have benefited, but actually, while the competition was going on, they really lost out on a wider selection. How about HD DVD player vendors and owners? They all lost out.

My current windmill tilt has to do with competing standards for medical device communication as used in the home. Two organizations that I work with are pushing different approaches. One organization is looking at an approach that would utilize standards already used elsewhere in healthcare for medical device communication to apply them to home health. Another organization is looking at applying some new technologies and existing standards in a way that hasn't been done before in a new market segment. There are benefits and disadvantages to either, few of which seem to be related to technical capabilities.

From a technical perspective, it appears that either solution communicates the information needed. My hope is that the two organizations will go work it out with each other for a while. They agreed today to do just that, after 2 hours of lengthy discussion today. We'll see what they come up with.

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