Where is the nobility of open source in the optical disk standards arena? Instead of IP being donated to the world at large it is protected by patent lawyers and licensed off at what some might characterise as grossly disproportionate charges. It's the prospect of fat revenue flows from a post-DVD standard, either HD-DVD or Blu-ray, that is driving the ferocious dispute between the Toshiba and Sony camps as they strive to establish their particular IP as the standard.

Even if one of them does become the standard it will probably only be an umbrella standard. Look at the miserable and pathetic spread of DVD standards: DVD+R; DVD-R, DVD 1-layer, DVD 2-layer, etc, etc. Players may read disks of one type but not another. Media of one type may work but a different manufacturer's media of the same type may not work in particular players. It makes you thnk license holders are more concerned with revenue than policing effective manufacturing against the standards they license.

Samsung and Toshiba have combined some manufacturing plants so that Samsung can share a Toshiba licence to manufacture drives and so save around $4 per player in payments to Philips. Philips, of course, doesn't have to pay itself license fees and so has an in-built cost-advantage on its players as well as getting generous licence fee revenue inflows.

In the business computing software world we have standards bodies. Why? It's probably an outcome of academic computing science and the need universities saw to link together in networks and exchange files and e-mails. So we had language standards and networking standards. This same infrastructure led to Unix standardisation efforts, laughable as those ended up in the X/Open era with Windows NT listed as an open operating system.

Manufacturers fought like hell to establish LAN standards though. Remember the Token Ring vs Ethernet wars? And Microsoft always seems to be striking out on its own to establish its own revenue-generating standards. Hence the struggle against Java. I didn't really mind Microsoft Windows duking it out with OS/2; that's one proprietary system fighting another. I minded more, much more, with Microsoft undermining Java.

Business suppliers generally get to fewer competing standards in an area much more quickly than consumer suppliers, and life is consequently simpler. Where mass consumer markets beckon then suppliers behave like wrangling alley cats and the current DVD standards mess and the HD-DVD and Blu-ray struggle is the result.