The Visualist Blog

Are standards an impediment to innovation?

Is it true that broadcast standards are an impediment to TV innovation?  Sometimes I think global standards, when monopolizing a technology, have a lifecycle that is tied to manufacturing. It usually takes at least five years for a large company to benefit from a re-tooling of a manufacturing facility. Obviously, for fast-moving software companies, five years may as well be decades.  I’ve known people who have developed a concept, raised financing, hired a team, built a product, and sold that new product in less than a year. What value do standards have in this environment?

I’ve seen a lot of concern around this issue before and recently ran into this article that laments the same issue.  I’m not sure this is entirely true.  TV’s have become more general computing platforms and are now able to evolve along a more aggressive software development cycle.  Your smart TV can get smarter just by downloading better software.

Besides, standards not only provide a way of determining if a product/service is manufactured with an acceptable level of quality, but they also allow both small and large companies to work together by exploiting the agreed-upon standard.  I recently had a conversation with someone from Samsung regarding how we might work together.  The answer was simple: utilize standards that already exist.  Our software developers would only have to commit to writing software according to an agreed-upon standard, and little-old-Mersive could directly connect its products to an international leader in multimedia products.  Pretty cool.

That being said, media standards also have a tendency to get in the way of innovation when they are too strict or remain unnecessarily stagnant (more nefarious parties can hold standards stagnant to level the playing field for their own stagnant products). They can force companies or organizations to forego their creative or innovative approaches to product design and development and succumb to the approaches that the standard dictates.

So as with all things, standards cut both ways. It is important to at least acknowledge when you decide to go against a standard or adopt it.  This is a particularly important decision when you’re a small company like Mersive.

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