A recent comment on my blog (there's only two right now) kind of got me thinking about the purpose of protocol wars. The commenter was a 6LowPAN backer and was taking a lot of jabs at Zigbee. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm  not a diehard fan of anything. I never really subscribed to the whole "whose side are you on" type of thing, not even for presidential elections (go Obama). However I did point out some holes in his arguments.

Protocol wars are basically stupid. They are part of the same genus as format wars. So as an overplayed example, lets take Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD. Toshiba was touting the benefits of HD-DVD and preaching to all that would listen that the world would be a better place if we adopted it as the standard. Sony was preaching the same message, except about Blu-Ray. They both were one-upping each other on specs:

HD-DVD - Backwards compatibility with DVD players

Blu-Ray - Higher storage capacities

HD-DVD - Lower manufacturing cost

Blu-Ray - More DRM options

Yada yada...

However the consumer doesn't give a shit about the storage density of the disc or compatibility with DVD players. What they wanted was a disc that they can watch HD content on. Could Blu-Ray do it? Yes. Could HD-DVD do it? Yes. Does the consumer care if Blu-Ray or HD-DVD wins? I'm pretty sure the answer was no. The whole consumer market just wanted a decision made. That was it. However the whole time the format wars were going on, damage was being done to the entire industry. The consumer didn't know which player to buy or to even buy one at all. The studios couldn't decide if they should release HD content. The manufacturer's had to make expensive players that were compatible with both. And finally, how did Sony win the format war? Was it by having a better spec? No. They paid off Warner . There you go folks.

So where am I going with this? Well, I don't care if Zigbee is better than 6LowPAN is better than Z-Wave is better than Joe Blow's homemade protocol. The consumer doesn't care if Zigbee uses a Layer 2 Mesh (actually I don't know if this is true...I don't even know what a layer 2 mesh is) and 6LowPAN uses a layer 3 mesh. They just want to solve some problem that they have, and if your protocol fits, then they should use it.

Why do I work with the Zigbee spec? I think that there are a lot of useful applications for wireless and I just happened to be slightly familiar with it from way back when. Is Zigbee better than all the other protocols? Frankly, I don’t know and I don't care.


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