The Burdens That Standards Bring--Roger Dickeson
The clamor for standards of all sorts to achieve this synergy nirvana is mounting. Bill Gates, or Son of Bill, where are you now when we need you? Come achieve critical market mass and impose a de facto standardization between 50,000 printers and millions of print buyers. I've listened to the tapes of Seybold 2000, followed the threads of computer forums, walked the floor at Graph Expo 2000, and received the literature of the trade associations and committees. At the moment it's e-grope, not e-commerce for want of standards.
What am I saying? Am I asking for a legacy with all its implied constraints on change? Be careful what you wish for. If—a great big if—standards can be developed and if—another big if—those standards are widely adopted, they become a mixed blessing. They provide for a common digital language that will enable smooth, error-free communication between print buyers and printers. Those standards could reduce administrative and production costs for both buyer and printer by some order of magnitude. At the very moment they become effective, however, they're out of date. Those standards have become an impediment that blocks free adoption of new ideas and technology.
What to do? In the short term those wished-for digital standards will cut the costs of buying and producing printing. Productivity will increase. In the long term those very standards will be a drag on the use of the new wireless, voice-responsive, immensely more powerful computers now lurking just over the horizon. Those babies will require entirely different standards.
Do we really have a choice? We must survive in the short term because as Lord Keynes told us, "We'll all be dead in the long term." Change is the only constant. So bring on your digital standards. Let's have more immediate productivity. We'll use our second wish, Mr. Genie from the bottle, new standards!