Forward-compatible standards are the next step after getting everyone to implement interoperable industry standards. Actually, there might be a step between those that I'd call "open standards". Implementing any kind of standard is much better than relying on proprietary formats, and implementing open standards is better than that, because it fosters innovation and competition, leading to better products. Forward-compatible standards means that my set-top DVD player would be able to play Blu-Ray discs (though probably at lower resolution) if only the standards committee had designed for a bit of growth in the standard. I wouldn't have to keep upgrading my home entertainment systems if the standards were designed with a bit of forethought.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - Forwards compatibility is a lot harder than it seems.
PPS - More so in hardware than in software, I think.