BOX 3.5 Interoperability

Service providers want to differentiate themselves through advanced technology (such as better service) and through information services (or content). That tends to drive one away from interoperability. So, as we move into this environment of competitive services, I think we have to start thinking about what the real need for interoperability is. Does it truly have to be globally seamless or can we allow essentially closed groups to provide interoperability through a limited set of interconnect points?

—Tim Clifford, DynCorp (formerly with Sprint)

The interoperability is at a transport level, being able to get messages across, back, and forth. But the feature functionality is at a different dimension.1

—Mahal Mohan, AT&T Corporation

1  

As illustration, discussions are ongoing in industry to minimize incompatibility among early PCS systems, possibly by developing hardware to support multiple protocols. See Csenger (1995) and Wexler (1995b).

tition for a network vis-à-vis another one and not go further." Horowitz noted that there are many points (such as operating system, storage, transport) in his content-creating and content-distributing business at Viacom where he could face higher costs because of the constrained choices of services that arise as a consequence of "only one solution for a network." He emphasized the need for open access to the set-top device, explaining that "it is not a box per se; it is the process by which you extract information from transportation and you get it displayed or [converted] into usable form."

Horowitz's concerns are examined in the context of alternative industry and government perspectives in a white paper by attorney Jonathan Band. Commenting on how Microsoft's competitive success has inspired arguments and action by different industry groups, Band observes:

Microsoft hopes to dominate the market for the operating system for the "set-top box"—the entry point to the information infrastructure into individual homes or business. By controlling the standard for the set-top box operating system, Microsoft will be able to exercise control over access to the entire infrastructure. Microsoft wants to encourage third-party vendors to develop applications that will run on its operating system; the more applications, the more desirable the operating system be-



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