Government and Industry Discuss the Future of Technical Standards

Posted by Craig Shank 
General Manager, Interoperability

I had the privilege today to represent Microsoft before aHouse Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation hearingon technical standards and the future of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).

The computing experience is undergoing a rapid transformation as consumers and businesses harness computing power in the cloud. New businesses are forming because any small group of developers can create content or software and make it instantly available via the Internet around the globe. That said, there are important responsibilities, particularly around security and privacy, that come with the opportunities created by cloud computing – areas where standards may play an important role.

The Obama administration has identified a number of very complex technology policy areas, such as smart utility grids, health IT and cybersecurity, that impact many different stakeholders. All of these are areas where standards can play an important supporting role in achieving U.S. policy objectives.

The voluntary, market-driven standards system in use today has the tools necessary to create standards to help accomplish the administration’s objectives. At the same time, there is a need for an active convener of the key stakeholders, so together they can assess standards-related needs and frame solutions to resolve differences. We believe that NIST, based on its standards expertise and its reputation as a neutral, science-based organization, is well equipped to serve that role.


The Honorable Patrick Gallagher, director of NIST, described his agency’s approach in his written testimony: “NIST’s Smart Grid related work could be looked at as a model for future standards development activities in areas of significant government interest and national need. The Smart Grid effort was characterized by a stronger federal leadership role in convening the appropriate government stakeholders, and private-sector players to coordinate their activities, define objectives and reference architectures, and establish priorities for work towards mutually acceptable goals on an accelerated timescale.”

At Microsoft, we believe that effective technical standards can help promote innovation and fuel market growth, which in turn will spur job creation. The technology marketplace changes rapidly, and new and competing standards that are responsive to marketplace needs enable deployment of new solutions and encourage the development of innovative products and services.

Microsoft plays a dual role in standardization activities. We actively contribute innovative technology to standards bodies in many technology areas. For example, we’ve contributed a Microsoft technology called User Interface Automation that helps developers build products like screen readers and voice recognition software that enhance accessibility to computers and the Internet for those with significant vision, hearing or other impairments. In addition, as we develop our products, from Windows to Xbox and beyond, we implement thousands of technology standards that are formulated by a broad array of standards bodies. This balance – sitting on both sides of the standards fence – frames our perspective: a diverse standards ecosystem that supports multiple technologies is good for the U.S. and global economic growth.

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