IoT and Standards
About 8 years ago Apple steamrolled the mobile telephony industry with the first iPhone. They drastically disrupted the symbiosis of operators and device manufacturers. Nokia and Motorola did not survive this mayhem and knowing the operators of 15 years ago they are still have not recovered.
After visiting the ETSI OneM2M workshop in Nice for three days I am wondering if history will repeat itself? It feels like the telecom industry never analyzed why Apple ate their lunch and thought about how to defend itself against the next attack. In the workshop the work is about standardizing protocols, abstract reference semantic reference models, and maybe some open source influence. The underlying rationale is the somewhat tired lesson that collaborating on protocols will enable interoperability, which will increase the pie many times. True, but how do we prevent that an Apple will come again and steal the pie under our nose?
Apple succeeded so easily because it hit the soft underbelly of the mobile telekom industry: software. Software was proprietary in the telekom industry, protocols were paramount. Only after NTT Docomo succeeded on generating revenues on applications did the industry enable a severely crippled software model on the phones. I did participate in an attempt of Motorola, Nokia, IBM and others to set a better software standard based on OSGi just before the iPhone hit. I can ensure you that we didn’t stand a chance because the focus was on irrelevant aspects like managing the device, constraining the application developer, and lowering the cost. Instead the focus should have been on what independent developers could do with a programmable device.
The rest was history.
The iPhone enabled Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Maps, and all of the other millions of applications because anybody could write cool applications for it which is the truest source of innovation.
The telekom industry is now sitting on the fence of a huge new market: The Internet of Things. The industry is eminently suited to provide the connectivity and having first row access to the humongous pie of IoT services. Instead of learning the lessons of the mobile telephone industry it feels like history will repeat itself.
It is the software, stupid!