A Friendly Reminder To Share and Share Alike

Every code-hogging, patent suit-filing corporation that thinks it has cornered the world on smarts got a reminder this week that it’s not always smart to not share your toys.

The reminder came from Japan, where Sony said it will stop making the Betamax video player, ending its nearly 30-year effort to win market share by hogging all the glory for itself.

Hopefully, someone at Microsoft is taking note of this development. Amazon, too, could use a reminder that sharing its spoils — such as its supposedly patented 1-Click checkout system — could pay long-term dividends.

Miss Manners

Really, Betamax is a lesson for everyone that being first on the carousel doesn’t always win you the brass ring.

Sony’s Betamax technology is a classic business-school case study proving that first isn’t always best. It’s what you do with the advantage gained by being first that counts.

Matter of Time

Granted, DVD and other digital formats will eventually kill VHS, the format that beat Betamax. But Betamax has been among the walking dead for 15 years, with Sony making just barely enough players to satisfy contrarians who insist that paying more for something must mean it’s better.

Whether or not Betamax was better didn’t matter. While companies around the world were churning out VHS-based VCRs, the Betamax secret formula remained locked in Sony’s safe deposit box.

A little sharing would have gone a long way.

Share, Share Alike

And so it goes with others. Microsoft could have been a little more generous. In fact, the company recently realized it might get itself out of hot water — or at least, into more tepid water — by opening its code and allowing others to help it make money.

The 1-click furor also seems near-sighted. Amazon has fought to defend the underlying idea of its patent — that people can check out at an online store with a single click — seemingly failing to realize that if its system were widely adopted, shoppers might more easily transition to buying products at Amazon.

Sharing, in fact, seems to be key to the future of e-commerce, and technology in general.

Web services is all about sharing, after all. So is person-to-person computing. As always, successful sharing will require example-setting and true leadership to set the tone for the future.

Is it still grab-all-you-can and call it yours? Or are we sufficiently confident that the cookie jar will produce enough for everyone?

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.

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