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Source: Unknown (I can't find it on the web now and didn't save the source)
Betamax vs VHS
The VHS format's defeat of the Betamax format became a classic marketing case study. Sony's ability to dictate an industry standard backfired when JVC, and parent Matsushita, made the tactical decision to forego Sony's offer of Betamax in favor of JVC's VHS technology. They felt that it would end up like U-Matic deal: Sony dominating, and they get the scraps. By 1984, forty companies utilized the VHS format in comparison with Beta's twelve. Sony finally conceded defeat in 1988 when it too began producing VHS recorders. However, Sony may be said to have had some small consolation in this saga as its Video-8 small-format videotape is essentially a scaled-down version of the Betamax, and Video-8 dominated the home camcorder format for the next 15 years with the rival VHS-C format, until both formats were rendered obsolete by the digital MiniDV standard."
But I was just an infant during all of this, so my knowledge only drinks from the fountain of the textbook. For those of you who have a more intimate understanding of this and how it parallels (or doesn't) our current Blu-Ray/HD-DVD situation,
The parallels you observe are quite correct. Beta, despite being technically superior, failed because it wasn't licensed to other manufactures. Sony wanted to go their own way, and it backfired this time.
Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD This time, Sony has learned from that lesson, and Blu-ray is licensed to numerous companies, including Sony's competitors. Toshiba is making the same mistake Sony made back then (except their technology is NOT superior to the alternative!): going it alone despite overwhelming evidence that that is not the best way to do it.
I’ve said this before. Actually, I said it when sales of Kindle took off. And there’s a reason it wins: Whispersync. MOBI is an ancient and limited/limiting format. EPUB is an evolving and flexible (if not quite limitless yet) format. MOBI was all but dead when Amazon used it for the Kindle, but readers don’t care. They want their ebooks and they want them to be more convenient than paper.
Here’s the problem: Technology gets in the way of reading ebooks. MOBI wins simply because it happens to be the format Amazon used to make it painless for people to get books. (And if you think Barnes & Noble’s nook is going to become the EPUB equivalent of Kindle, you’re kidding yourself.)
Context MBA vs Lotus Notes
WordPerfect vs MS Word
Mac OS vs Windows
PDA - Smart Phones Palm > Blacberry > iPhone > Android > iPhone 4