Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Friday, December 30, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different

I just spent a relaxing 3 days in Amagansett with friends living well above my rung on the economic ladder (read: multi-million beach house on the dunes) and while basking in the glow of a crackling fire, I succumbed to a sudden obsession with the TV show "24." In a desperate effort to exercise my demons and still pay tribute to our hosts (and video renters) Ken and Susie, I share the latest hot TV commercial from Japan.

Keifer's big in Japan!

Click the photo above and check it out.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Open Standards & RAND

I was asked to write briefly on the connection between open standards and RAND ("reasonable and non-discriminatory" conditions). Here's what I have so far. Anyone care to comment?

Open standards are the subject of increasing public attention and debate. But what makes a standard open?

Open standards must be royalty-free, but the discussion does not end there. The harder question is whether open standards can have other conditions if they are “reasonable and non-discriminatory” (known as RAND). Despite its appealing rhetoric, RAND is not an objective benchmark. “Reasonable” is in the eye of the beholder; it is an undefined criteria only a lawyer could love. Worse, RAND can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, bringing new forms of lock-in under the guise of “openness.”

Standards have degrees of openness, mainly due to restrictions and encumbrances placed upon them by vendors. The fact that a standards organization labels a standard open is not determinative. Its effect in the marketplace is a better guide.

At a minimum, open standards must allow all possible competitors to operate on a basis of equal access to the ability to implement the standard. They should not drive others to follow any specific proprietary path or effectively foreclose any software development model. A standard that in effect blocks open source developers from its implementation is not an open standard.

Any conditions (RAND or otherwise) that have the effect of limiting competition, leaving control in the hands of a single vendor, or hindering interoperability—for example, proprietary extensions of a standard—are incompatible with open standards. Ultimately, open standards must allow for self-directed innovation.