The effect of standards and conformance tests on competition and innovation in the digital age is significant. During the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age: Beyond the Browser Wars that was held on July 23, 1998, testimony and responses to questions centered on three power points supporting that:
- A single dominant market share vendor [BusTech_98] is able to control its core and other ancillary markets if it is able to unilaterally declare that previously unrelated products are in fact, interrelated. Once declared as related, the dominant market share vendor is then able to rationalize the melding of these formerly unrelated products into an inseparable product suite. A single price is then charged for the product suite to the great disadvantage of other vendors who only sell or service the previously unrelated products. [Fortune_97]
- A single dominant market share vendor is able to control smaller, technologically excellent and possibly future competitors by forcing these vendors to engage in “partnering agreements” that force the lesser partner to sign-away intellectual property rights and also sign-away the right to sue for any intellectual property rights infringements so that the “smaller partner” can access critical-to-existence software interface routines.
- A single dominant-market-share vendor is able to control its market area if it prevents, subverts, or takes advantage of technology areas which do not have publicly arrived-at, voluntary-consensus standards that are validated through robust and enforced conformance tests.
This paper, The Essential Paradigm for Successful Information Technology Standards, shows that to be successful, accepted, and widely implemented and followed, an Information Technology standard must contain three elements:
- A significant market share vendor community (SVC)
- Publicly developed, available, and evolving standards (STD)
- Enforced conformance tests (ECT)
The paper shows that when one or more of these elements is missing a standard generally fails.
It should be noted that while the United States Senate hearing was focused on one American company, Microsoft, and even though this paper employs Microsoft as the “case study” for explaining the paradigm of successful information technology standards, this paper is not intended to be an anti-Microsoft document. For example, if this paper were written in the mid 1980s, the case study would have been IBM.