Déjà vu – all over again?
The recent announcements by Google of OpenSocial and now Android, their open platform for mobile phones, has left me with a distinct feeling of déjà vu… or as Yoggi Berra said "Déjà vu all over again".
Both OpenSocial and Android are collections of companies threatened by a common foe – in the case of OpenSocial, the foe is FaceBook, for Android, it's a combination of the cellular carriers and the dominant handset players.
Déjà vu? We've seen this phenomena before. Think of initiatives like the Open Software Foundation of the late 80's that was created by DEC to counter SUN Microsystem's collaboration with AT&T – Scott McNealy nicknamed OSF – "Oppose Sun Forever".
I'm hard pressed to think of many (any?) industry consortia that resulted in a significant and enduring market shift. How will Google drive the efforts of OpenSocial and Android to a different conclusion?
The failure dynamics of earlier industry consortia cluster around:
- Standard defined by a committee
- Checklist endorsement of the standard by consortia members – no one wanted to surrender their differentiation but everyone wanted to say they played in the sandbox.
- Outflanked by a nimbler competitor who could a) see the slow moving consortia battle plan in full detail and b) out execute their massed competitors
Google may be able to avoid some of these pitfalls – Eric Schmidt is a wily veteran of the Java adoption wars and heads up a company with market dominance and deep pockets. To me the biggest tests are going to be whether Google resists letting too many fingers into the API specs and whether the different players fully embrace the new spec.
Time will tell…