Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz musing at AlwaysOn about ‘Java, and Survival of the Most Adaptable’ (which has to do with much more than software).

I’m still amazed when I hear folks wondering how Sun monetizes Java. So at the risk of repetition, I’d like to share a few thoughts.

When Thomas Edison first introduced the lightbulb, he held patents he
tried to wield against potential competitors – he wanted to own the
client (the bulb) and the server (the dynamo). He failed. Standards
emerged around voltage and plugs, and GE Energy
(formerly, Edison General Electric), to this day, remains one of the
most profitable and interesting businesses around. How big would the
power business be today if you could only buy bulbs and appliances from
one company? A far sight smaller, I’d imagine. Standards grew markets
and value.

And they still can. (As long as they’re designed so they don’t stiffle innovation.)

We’ve seen the power of standards — even voluntary ones — in the impact that the LEED™ rating system has had on the growth of ‘green building’ — and in the impact we hope to have with the development of the S-BAR ‘sustainable business rating system.’ (Not exactly the same sort of standards that Schwartz is discussing, but in the lineage.)