The Wall Street Journal has reported that International Business Machines Corporation, one of the leading players in the establishment of global technological standards, is to review its membership of the bodies that set common standards within the technology industries and may even withdraw from some. Such a step could undermine both the credibility and the efficacy of the system that makes electronic equipment and software interoperable worldwide. Apparently IBM has become frustrated by what it considers the opaque processes and poor decision-making in some of the hundreds of bodies that set technical standards for everything from data-storage systems to programming languages.
It seems to me that this may be more of a political gesture than a serious threat. By announcing its intention to review existing agreements on the basis that the decision-making is poor, IBM can at the same time (i) remind fellow standards-setters of the massive value of its commitment to standards and its need to receive remuneration commensurate with its commitment while (ii) checking its exposure to allegations of anticompetitive price-fixing and cartel-mongering.
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