Originally Posted by Olin Coles
For almost two years now, which was when both the Blu-Ray Disc and HD-DVD formats were first introduced, there has been a repeat of the famous BetaMAX / VHS format war. Blu-Ray Disc, much like BetaMAX, was a Sony creation; and although BetaMAX was technically superior, it lost that particular format war.
Regarding the BetaMAX/VHS war, there was a very unlikely, silent player that could have hastened the demise from the shadows. You see, the BetaMAX people refused to create pornographic titles, whereas the VHS people did not shy away. Back then, nobody could have predicted that porn would become an industry whose billions of dollars in revenue outstripped (sorry for the pun) the sum of all of the sales from boxoffice/DVD sales of Hollywood.
The lesson learned should have been: never discount the impact of a special interest group, no matter how "unpopular" it may be at the time.
SONY made, and continues to make, some very good products. But look at Apple vs. PC, and you can see another example of a better product (in the 1980's) than the thing that absorbed most of the marketshare. There are many factors that play in the adoption of a standard, and superiority of the product clearly is not the key factor, we have too many counterexamples.
Sometimes "laziness" plays a huge part. Just look at the width of train tracks today as the prime example. Why are they separated as far as they are today? Mostly because when the Transcontinental Railroad was being built, they decided to use some of those long, relatively straight ruts already cut across the plains by the wagon trains as a guide. So, the width of the wagon wheels played a role in deciding that "standard".
And what was that width based on? Wagons being made the same width going back to Colonial America, whose standard came from Great Britain. And the Great Britain wagon wheel width? That can be traced back to the ruts carved in Roman roads by chariots, whose widths were determined by the aperture of two horses' behinds!
So, you can see, the width of the rear end of a horse, times 2, ended up being the standard for modern railway transportation! You never know for how long, or how unusual, some metric will become the foundation for something.