Collusion is usually a bad thing. Companies arent supposed to get together,and pick one idea or price to share,rather than letting the market decide. There are,however,exceptions,and exceptions of the sort that can make massive differences to peoples lives. For example,the decision,announced on Tuesday,by the GSM Association of mobile phone operators and manufacturers to adopt a common standard for chargers.
Pause to consider the magnitude of this for a moment. It cuts down on waste (51,000 tonnes a year): no longer need a charger be thrown out when the phone it came with dies. It cuts down on cost: now generic chargers will be available and cheap,thus forcing down the price of branded ones. Indeed,perhaps in the future phones will be sold separate from chargers. Above all,think of the convenience that touches all of us: a dying battery can be revived anywhere,chargers will be sharable. Oh,and theyre supposed to be more energy-efficient,too.
Now the bad news: this isnt happening overnight. The aim is that a majority of new chargers should use the universal connector by 2012. This is partly because the handset companies Nokia,Motorola,et al. are being pushed into it by the European Union,which,in a fussy Brussels-y manner,hates untidiness and asymmetry. Still,encouraging market leaders to agree on interoperability and compatibility is generally considered part of a regulators job description. Of course,theres one big holdout: Apple,even more finicky than the EU,isnt part of the deal. Steve Jobs wont put up with grubby,multipurpose,chargers-with-corners. So iPhone users will be able to maintain their exclusivity. Though one imagines theyll be petitioning for better battery life all the harder now.