De facto standards are the only ones that matter.
That’s a bit of a truism in the technology world – well intentioned standards bodies and departments of justice can do their best, but at
the end of the day, volume deployment is the only setter of standards. Ubiquity trumps policy, just about every time.
To that point, I was on a panel recently, discussing the impact of technology on the world’s more rapidly developing economies (what’s often referred to as "BRICA," or Brazil, Russia, India, China and Africa).
One of the speakers referenced an interesting shift in the traditional media industry: western companies were turning their attention toward the developing world. GDP growth wasn’t drawing their attention – as much as demographics. Teenagers and those in their early twenties represent the biggest media buyers in the world, spending a greater portion of their income on music, movies and entertainment than any other age group. And the majority of people fitting that age profile live, by definition, in population centers – not in the US, UK, or Germany, but BRICA. Whose collective population represents nearly half the entire planet’s. Think of the Ovum analysis from the New York Times, pictured on the right, more as growth in media outlets – and remember, more people in the world see “the internet” on their phone, than on a PC.
The impact of that shift in buying power won’t be limited to traditional media. The software industry is a media industry, as well – technically, the two have fully converged (a digital file is a digital file, whether it’s OpenSolaris, MySQL, a new Jay Chou video, or a champion cricket highlight). The infrastructure to distribute and manipulate that content (eg, servers, networking, storage and infrastructure software) is increasingly geared to serve consumers – the "business to consumer" (or, B2C) segment of the IT marketplace is growing far, far faster than "business to business" (B2B).
And where will the market for such network computing infrastructure be largest? By definition, where the markets are centered – near consumers (more than half of whom now live in urban environments, well covered by mobile network service). If B2B caused the IT industry to concentrate in proximity to economic centers (the G7), B2C focuses our attention on consumers and population centers (the P7?). That’s a profound change.
So with that backdrop, I’ve made a few significant changes to how Sun’s organized, focusing leadership and resourcing around two new areas.
First, as many folks know inside of Sun, I announced the addition of Lin Lee to my staff, to manage relationships with governments and NGO’s across the world. Based in Shanghai, Lin will advocate Sun’s vision of sustainable network infrastructure, encompassing open source and document formats to power efficient datacenters – we’ve already found a very receptive audience in emerging economies. Lin’s focus will be helping students, universities and governments to lower the barriers to indigenous opportunity.
I also announced today a new leader reporting to me for Sun’s Global Sales and Services organization, Peter Ryan. He’s also added to his staff a new business region, Emerging Markets – with a new leader (Denis Heraud). Emerging Markets, representing a basket of rapidly developing economies (BRICA included), will be a peer to North America, Europe and Asia. Last quarter alone, our BRICA business grew in double digits – this change is designed to accelerate that growth by adding new focus, resourcing and strong leadership.
Peter (who disclosed to me only this weekend that he started his career as a mainframe systems engineer!) replaces Don Grantham. (Don’s leaving Sun to help HP secure a Solaris license before their EDS transaction closes…)
Rapidly developing economies have, of late, started throwing their weight around in the world of traditional IT standards – and have been among the most assertive in embracing and deploying free/open source software. Quite naturally, they’ve also been among the most concerned about sustainable technology practices: 100,000,000 new PC users, each drawing 200 watts, certainly paves the way for social and economic progress – at the cost of ~20 gigawatts of new coal fired power plants. Now you know why our SunRay desktops, at 4 watts apiece, have been of such interest in the developing (and developed) world.
Bluntly put, we’re elevating our focus on developing economies because that’s where free software, and Sun’s businesses, are growing fastest. Where is OpenOffice deployed in the greatest numbers? In places where saving $300 per desktop is meaningful.
No wonder those economies are so passionate about open standards – their citizenry will ultimately make them the most important decision makers in the world.