Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oh yes, Microsoft and Apple both managed to take center stage last week. Clearly the Digital Home appears to be heading in the direction of "commodity service".

However, it is Prof. Lessig, in his column for Wired Magazine, who has triggered this blogpost. He makes some interesting points in relation to the development of "basic infrastructure" for the Digital Society (my term, not his). He draws on his experiences from the Microsoft vs. Dept of Justice case. The learnings from such a landmark case should be used to drive policy-makers and solution designers in deciding on matters of such vital importance.

Prof. Lessig mentions municipalities and network-neutrality -- important aspects in the discussion of basic infrastructure for the Digital Society. I take the consumer-citizen perspective to discuss the scenarios needed to drive the  societal digital infrastructure (SDI) and solutions. SDI is at a higher-level of abstraction than basic infrastructure and is absolutely dependent on a stable basic infrastructure. I hope that a "citizen-driven design" approach can force "infrastructure providers" to agree on standards and terms for competition.
(Aside: At a very early stage, the Norwegian banking industry agreed on what portions of the banking value network were deemed "infrastructure" and what were open for competition; this formed the basis for creation of very advanced banking services. Latterly, the railways were split into an organisation for maintaining the tracks; and opening for companies operating train services. Surprisingly, this has not happened as transparently for the Telecom & broadband industry. Which makes Prof. Lessig's article interesting)

Reading Prof. Lessig's comments on the Linux / Microsoft discussion; I recalled my own observations when the anti-trust lawsuit was at it's hottest. Microsoft was, and still is, very clever in managing its status as the company "people love to hate"; Microsoft have driven the platform development and the solution development tracks simultaneously. Most businesses that are part of their partner ecosystem accept the "carrot" (basic infrastructure) while understanding the "stick" (Microsoft's ability to enters markets that they believe are neccessary to build out the platform). This Darwinistic approach to platform-building has served users well, it has definitely helped Microsoft ... and I suppose partners also have benefitted.

So, is there anything municipalities can learn from Microsoft's strategies? They can learn from another Microsoft'ism -- being user-centric, focusing on making things as simple as possible (but not simpler -- to quote Albert Einstein).

I hope the Trådløse Trondheim (Wireless Trondheim) project can constructively drive the basic infrastructure discussion for the Digital Society. We need to move past the discussions of operating systems and network protocols; we must solve technical interoperability if we are to solve the challenges of semantic interoperability.

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