Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Openness in the news

A few tidbits highlighted in the inner pages of a friend’s WSJ this morning. All are about (to some degree) IT openness.

Comcast is partnering with Clearwire (and thus Sprint) to resell its WiMax service to its existing cable modem subscribers. In integrating its offerings, Comcast is seeking to increase switching costs. More fundamentally, either this suggests that Comcast realizes that revenue growth in its core business is over, or it decided it needs to bundle in-home and coffee shop Internet access for residential users to compete with AT&T (DSL + Wi-Fi hotspots) and other integrated telecom companies.

Meanwhile, Clearwire is eager to generate revenue and win WiMax adoption before the more widely endorsed LTE tsunami comes flooding in.

The EU has forced major mobile phone makers to adopt a standard recharger plug by 2010. Nominally to reduce the number of chargers in landfills, of course it’s really about forcing an open standard to reduce switching costs. While I think this is exactly the sort of trivial economic micromanagement that governments should avoid, fortunately the government didn’t have to push too hard as European and US telecom trade associations had previously brokered the plan.

Alas, the format is the relatively new (and incompatible) micro-USB instead of the ubiquitous mini-USB that I already have on all my hard disks and some of my existing cameras and cellphones.

Dell is rumored (by the WSJ and earlier reports) to be planning an Android device aimed squarely at the iPod Touch. This makes a lot of sense, since for many users, the value of the iPT comes from its WebKit web browser, a mail client, Google maps and an RSS reader. Assuming Android has gotten around to fixing their awful email client, the open source (and thus inherently commoditized) platform makes perfect sense for the company that seeks to copy Apple’s new technology innovations (and old production innovations) as its core commodity business declines.

As with other Dell technology efforts, it would enable the low R&D company to build upon the R&D efforts of others, a classic (if decades old) example of open innovation.

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