In March, we finally saw Batman and Superman end up on opposite sides of a conflict. Who would win? Which would be in the right? How would their abilities play against each other?
I want to be clear about my position on this because an enormous number of people care deeply about Superman and his I’ve-lost-my-planet-but-now-my- adopted-home-needs-me backstory. And a huge group of folks nearly worship Batman and his tragic familial past. My opinion about the battle (and I think I speak for many people over the age of 35) is: “Who cares? I always liked Marvel comics better anyway.”
But that cinematic event brought to mind other great conflicts those of us in the digital world see every day. The one I’m specifically talking about is Innovation versus Standards.
This is a conflict that’s existed for as long as there have been digital computers. It’s a classic battle between companies that innovate and the consumers of that innovation. Any company, after spending millions of dollars to create, test, refine, and roll out new capabilities and technologies wants to be rewarded for that effort. But any consumer of that innovation wants to be able to integrate it into other products and services he or she has purchased from other sources. Both viewpoints are valid, but the conflict between them slows innovation and adoption in the digital world.
To cement my point, here are some examples where innovation and standards are at war:
- Internet of Things
- Home automation
- Business process automation/robot process automation
- Data integration and analysis
- Development environments
- Security protocols
I could go on. So why isn’t there a solution or a middle ground we can find between these two positions? There is open source, of course, and I’m a huge fan, but it has limitations. If you want to innovate on top of an open platform, you must release your own code into the community (not realistic if you are in a company that requires even a modicum of security) or live with the fact that you are now on a semi-supported platform. Yes, there are exceptions to this, but it’s generally true.
You have three choices, each with associated downsides:
- Innovation: have your business locked into a proprietary vendor’s solution with the corresponding financial risks that entails
- Standards: have your business use less-than-ideal solutions that in many cases trail the market (standards nearly always lag the industry)
- Open source: have your business also be in the business of software maintenance and creation
I ‘d love our industry to find a different solution, perhaps one that allows multiple companies to “buy in” to a standard one of them developed and then license that standard out at a minimal charge. That would create a revenue stream for the creators while allowing competitive pressures and supercharged innovation. Some examples of this exist, but they are few and far between. I’d like to see this done on a much larger scale with cutting-edge technology.
But then, I’d also like to see the Avengers vs. the Justice League. And I don’t think that’s happening soon.
Oh—and the Avengers would win.
Post Date: 18.07.2016