The tech world is filled with stories about lone inventors disrupting the status quo and bringing new technologies and new business to the world: Napster and Facebook were written in college dorm rooms; Apple and HP were birthed in garages. While the story is almost always more complex than the myth, the myth almost always contains some level of truth. Much of the modern tech industry was actually created by tinkerers and technologists who combined good engineering with good business and marketing and created new markets or seriously contorted existing ones. Which is why existing companies are legitimately afraid of new entrants to their fields. And it may be why some companies act to prevent others from gaining a foothold -- possibly even through the use of industry regulatory boards.
USB ports are made to a certain standard. A group of industry heavyweights, including HP, Apple and Microsoft, are members of the USB implementors Forum, a group dedicated to ensuring compliance with the standard. That compliance is an unabashedly good thing: it is the reason why a USB port on a Mac works the same as one on an ASUS laptop and the same as one on the side of your "smart" TV. However, compliance requires the a PID tied to a unique vendor ID These cost approximately $5,000, a rather large fee for small operations or individuals to pay in order to attempt to devise hardware that takes advantage of a USB port.
Since some companies purchase and give away PIDS, an organization thought they could form a non-profit to raise money to purchase vendor IDS and give away PIDs to hobbyists The USB Implementors Forum said no:
The USB-IF has long had a VID/PID process for hobbyists.This seems an odd decision to me: if other companies are allowed to do this, why not a non-profit dedicated to hobbyists and small companies? perhaps because small companies and hobbyists are one vector for disruption of established industries? There is no evidence of this, not directly, but it is one possible explanation.
Please immediately cease and desist raising funds to purchase a unique USB VID for the purpose of transferring, reselling or sublicense PIDs and delete all references to the USB-IF, VIDs and PIDs for transfer, resale or sublicense from your website and other marketing materials.
A similar situation is the Open Handset Alliance. Google started the alliance in order to promote Android. Ars Technica has a good run down on how Google has neutered the Android Open Source Project and leveraged the Open Handset Alliance to prevent manufacturers from forking Android:
While it might not be an official requirement, being granted a Google apps license will go a whole lot easier if you join the Open Handset Alliance. The OHA is a group of companies committed to Android—Google's Android—and members are contractually prohibited from building non-Google approved devices. That's right, joining the OHA requires a company to sign its life away and promise to not build a device that runs a competing Android fork.Another example was the GSM vs. CDMA cellular wars of the last generation of cell phones. In Europe and other parts of the world, regulations forced the cellular companies to adhere to one standard. In the US, lack of regulation allowed both to thrive. In practice, this meant that as the cellular market became split between just tow major players and three or four minor ones, and because the two major players operated on different standards, the idea of purchasing a phone and switching between carriers was essentially impossible. As a result, competition was suppressed and service prices and terms kept artificially high.
Acer was bit by this requirement when it tried to build devices that ran Alibaba's Aliyun OS in China. Aliyun is an Android fork, and when Google got wind of it, Acer was told to shut the project down or lose its access to Google apps. Google even made a public blog post about it:
While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem. By joining the Open Handset Alliance, each member contributes to and builds one Android platform—not a bunch of incompatible versions.
This makes life extremely difficult for the only company brazen enough to sell an Android fork in the west: Amazon. Since the Kindle OS counts as an incompatible version of Android, no major OEM is allowed to produce the Kindle Fire for Amazon. So when Amazon goes shopping for a manufacturer for its next tablet, it has to immediately cross Acer, Asus, Dell, Foxconn, Fujitsu, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, NEC, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and ZTE off the list. Currently, Amazon contracts Kindle manufacturing out to Quanta Computer, a company primarily known for making laptops. Amazon probably doesn't have many other choices.
Ina ll of these cases, the lack of governmental or academic oversight and control of standards and protocols has let private concerns dominate markets and manipulate engineering standards in ways that limit rather than enhance competition. That limited competition makes perfect sense from the perspective of the private companies doing the manipulation. But it has limited consumer choice, stifled competition and lessened technological advancements. Competition s not in the best interest of capitalists. The logic of capitalism demands that companies retard progress and change as long as such progress and change threatens their business position. Letting such companies control standards is akin to plucking the chickens before handing the keys to the coop to the wolf.