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Day January 15, 2011

What Google can learn from John Sculley: How technology companies fail by placing their strategy burden on technology decisions

And so we come to the question of Chrome and H.264. First off, it should be clear that video codecs are infrastructural technology[1]. They are commodity algorithms which are generally invisible to users. They are ubiquitous and are “shared” in the sense that they are available for licensing often without much in terms of cost.

So they don’t really offer strategic advantage to the adopter. Some may end up adding slightly more to a cost structure than others, but not in a way that determines strategy.

Flash on the other hand is not infrastructural. It is not shared, it is not invisible to users, it is a brand, it has a significant business model and market value. It is sustaining to Adobe.

So the argument I’ve heard against Google’s decision is that they are using an infrastructural technology decision (a new video codec) to placate or sustain Adobe Flash, at the expense of Apple, a potential or perceived rival.

If this was the plan, it would be a strategic mistake.