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Children often place their faith and trust in fairy tales. How painful it can be for them when some friend lets them in on the truth about the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy before they are ready to accept a more mature worldview. As companies enter new businesses and try to expand the markets for their products, they often find themselves much like children with misplaced faith. As they innocently charge ahead toward new goals, they too often believe in fairy tales. As they mature in the new business, they slowly gain discernment and the ability to separate truth from fiction. Sometimes their faith in fairy tales is abruptly shattered, just as a child learns that truth with pain.

The business of digital television is going through such a transition. With the new technology comes many new opportunities for growth and expansion. Companies who have never been in the television business before charge ahead in search of these opportunities. The new technology also changes the rules, pushing some companies from mature positions in the industry back to more infantile ones. They struggle to gain the core competencies needed to compete in a new era. The buggy-whip makers of the past have to reinvent themselves to survive.

Some companies who have been proficient and mature in digital technology, software, or computers overestimate the application of their competencies to the new markets. Those who previously understood the TV business often misjudge the areas or rate at which growth will be demanded. They place their faith in what has worked in the past, without realizing that a new and more mature worldview is needed.

One area that is profoundly affected by this misplaced faith is industry standards. In some cases those children entering the new business create fairy-tales. These fairy tales are not created in deceit, but rather by a lack of understanding of the new business dynamics or complexities. An example of such a fairy tale is the EIA/CEA-818-B "Cable Compatibility Standard." This standard was created by the "buggy-whip makers" of days gone by without proper understanding of the new business they were trying to enter. Those companies who place their faith in this fairy-tale will be sadly disappointed once they gain some maturity and understanding about the dynamics of the new industry.

The old-school TV makers developed the EIA/CEA-818 standard in a vacuum. They got together with like-minded TV makers trying to preserve the business to which they had become accustomed. They failed to take into account the needs of the cable industry to develop a standard they arrogantly called a Cable Compatibility Standard. They did extend an invitation to members of the cable industry as a token of openness, but none accepted since they were already involved in similar ventures within the SCTE-DVS process. This standard, developed by the R-8 Committee of the Consumer Electronics Association, attempts to define the characteristics of a digital cable plant and to define the requirements of a compatible receiver.

Unfortunately, the standard misses its intended mark largely due to the lack of balance among the authors. The committee that developed this standard has virtually no representation from the very industry where it seeks compatibility.

While the buggy-whip-makers were busy crafting their cable standard without cable industry participation, the cable industry was busy using the open SCTE-DVS process to develop more relevant standards with the help of a wide range of manufacturers. One of the standards they developed was SCTE-DVS/313, which I have described in previous articles. DVS/313 is a complete standard that fully characterizes the types of digital signals that may be carried on a cable plant.

While EIA/CEA-818 also attempts to define the requirements of a cable compatible digital receiver, it falls woefully short in some areas and includes functions not required at all in others. Meanwhile, the cable industry has also developed specifications for cable compatible receivers. These specifications are known as the OpenCable Host Core Functional Requirements. Unlike the development of the CEA standard, these cable receiver specifications were developed with a complete understanding of the needs of the industry with which they expect to be compatible. When the time comes to build compatible cable products for sale at retail, manufacturers will have to decide where to place their faith. Some will place it in themselves or the fairy tales created by their buddies. Others will place it in the truth of standards and specifications developed by the cable industry. Those with the misplaced faith will eventually be disappointed and hurt. Don't let this mistake happen to your company.

[Editor's Note]:The opinions expressed in the story above are those of the author only and are not necessarily those of his employer, or the publisher.