Despite its risks and limitations, modularity may be the dominant strategy of the future simply because it's easier to do today. Joint ventures and outsourcing, both key to modularity, are widely accepted now, notes Baldwin. And modern information-processing technology simplifies the creation and management of the knowledge needed to specify and control modular architectures.
Most important, modularity will catch on because it must. The rapid pace of change long familiar in the computer industry is making itself felt in other industries as well. Since modularity is one of the best ways of coping with rapid change, says Baldwin, it may soon be that you're either modular or you're marginal.
3Com Corp., Palm Computing, (888) 619-7488, http://www.3com.com/palm
The Windward Group, (888) 395-9442, http://www.wwg.com