The Triumph of Ethernet: Technological Communities and the Battle for the LAN Standard

Stanford University Press, 2001 - 300 páginas
One of the most important elements in the computer revolution has been agreement on technological standards. The advances in communication allowed by millions of computers connecting over various networks are based on these networks sharing a common language. This book tells the complete story of the battle between several competing technologies in the late 1970s and early 1980s to become the compatibility standard in one high-tech arena, the LAN (local area network) industry.

In the end, a single technology succeeded in dominating the entire industry: Ethernet. The author argues that Ethernet triumphed not because it was better or cheaper, but because of a clever strategy by Ethernet s corporate sponsors. This strategy mandated the building of a large supplier base around the technology in order to compensate for an inability to produce all required components and devices. Within a few years, Ethernet had greatly surpassed its competitors in gaining suppliers, which included specialized start-ups, semiconductor firms, and established computer manufacturers. This supplier advantage proved an invaluable strategic asset. As suppliers developed various price and product advantages that were easily adopted by Ethernet, its competitors were driven out of the market.

Key to understanding the importance of a supplier base in the race for standards is the crucial role of a technological community. The book demonstrates how technological communities account not only for critical differences in the standardization strategies of various LAN vendors, but also for the emergence of other important instances of technological competition. For example, the recent rise of Linux and Java can be seen as the result of successful community-driven strategies.

The story of the battle for the LAN standard is also a story of the Internet more broadly, and so the book offers unique insights into its dazzling growth, as LANs became important corporate on-ramps to the Internet and several LAN suppliers (such as 3Com) evolved into leading suppliers of Internet technology.


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The Economic Theory of Standardization A Brief
The Invention of the LAN
The Beginning of Commercialization
The Formation of the Ethernet Community
The Rise and Fall of Ethernets
The Battle Between Ethernet and Token Ring
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Sobre o autor (2001)

Urs von Burg, formerly venture capital business analyst with Aureus Private Equity AG (now Invision), is a senior consultant at The McKenna Group.

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