ACM Queue has an article by Gordon Bell:
Over the next decade, we will encounter at least three major opportunities where success will hinge largely on our ability to define appropriate standards. Thats because intelligently crafted standards that surface at just the right time can do much to nurture nascent industries and encourage product development simply by creating a trusted and reliable basis for interoperability. From where I stand, the three specific areas I see as particularly promising are: (1) all telecommunications and computing capabilities that work together to facilitate collaborative work; (2) hybrid computing/home entertainment products providing for the online distribution of audio and/or video content; and (3) wireless sensor and network platforms (the sort that some hope the 802.15.4 and ZigBee Alliance standards will ultimately enable). No doubt there will be others, but for the purposes of this discussion, these should suffice.
The point here is that, in each of these areas, the right standards adopted at the right time can make an important contribution to technical evolution by applying critical design constraints. That is, they can do much to conserve vital design time and effort simply by providing a stable foundation of already defined compute capabilities and processes. Thus, instead of starting each new system from silicon, developers can be liberated to turn their attention to the design of higher-level, value-added functionality.