Friday, September 10, 2010

Open standards at Stanford

Starting on Sept. 21, Ken Krechmer will be teaching a 6 week evening course in Stanford’s Continuing Studies program entitled “Interfaces: The Gateway to Controlling New Technology Markets” (Bus 209). To quote from the course description:

Interfaces are everywhere: user interfaces, software interfaces, protocols, and many more. Designing, developing, and deploying key interfaces are crucial to the long-term success of many products, product lines, and companies. And interface control is perhaps even more important. Controlling interfaces has reaped enormous rewards for some of the most successful companies on the planet, such as Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm.

These days, the web is full of market opportunities that might become long-term profit opportunities if key interfaces can be controlled. What will happen to social networking interfaces such as Google OpenSocial, Facebook Connect, and Twitter’s API over time? Or consider Apple APIs — several European governments are concerned that only Apple products can download music from Apple’s iTunes site.

This course analyzes the historic, legal, societal, political, and economic impact of controlled interfaces, and also suggests future directions: new ways of creating interfaces that sidestep the negative issues of control and yet still support commercial advantage.
Ken has spent much of his life focusing on standards. He was the founder/publisher Communications Standards Review, tracking the latest developments in communications standardization for many year until he was bought out by his arch-rival, Bell Labs. He also served on a variety of standards committees, including those sponsored by ITU, ETSI, TIA, IEEE and IETF.

I’ve known Ken since he sold CSR. He was the head of the program committee for the SIIT conference for many years, most recently at SIIT 2009 in Nagoya (and will be on the program committee for SIIT 2011 in Berlin in Sept 2011).

Today he is a lecturer at the U. Colorado telecommunications program. He is also doing research based on his deep knowledge of standards. I’m proud to say that his most quoted standards article — on the definition of open standards — was presented at a HICSS standards minitrack that I co-chaired and published in a special issue of JITSR that I co-edited.

Standards are obviously of crucial importance for the computers, communications and consumer electronics industries. In the US, it’s rare that standards are treated as a discipline or subject of academic instruction. When I teach my MBA tech strategy class, at most I get to spend one week on standards and can barely scratch the surface.

For those in the Bay Area who are interested in standards, it is hard to imagine a more in-depth education on their origins and implications.

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