For Microsoft, 'interoperability' is easier by committee

It seems like 'interoperability' is an easier pill for Microsoft to swallow when it's delivered in press releases than in real-world situations.

As evidenced by the formation of a number of recent “technology partnerships” – and, just this week, a brand-new “Interoperability Alliance” that fails to include a number of key Microsoft rivals – Microsoft is really beating the interoperability drum these days.

But the European Commission (EC) weighed in on November 15 and burst Microsoft’s interoperability bubble. The EC is claiming that Microsoft still has not provided all of the interoperability documentation required under the European Union’s 2004 antitrust ruling regarding Microsoft.

Microsoft now has a new deadline of November 23 to do so. While court officials didn’t talk explicitly about more multi-million-dollar fines for failure to comply, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe those kinds of fines would be levied.

Microsoft was slated to provide all of the protocols and documentation allowing rivals to make their products interoperable with Windows by July 17, 2006, and delivered what it considered to be the seventh and final installment of the required information by that date.

But Microsoft is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make the EC happy, officials are proclaiming publicly. We are here to serve!

However, on November 14 at Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting, Microsoft’s chief lawyer Brad Smith -- when asked for an update on Microsoft's EU case -- responded that Microsoft is expecting to hear back about the outcome of its appeal of the case by next spring at the latest.

Maybe Microsoft was just hoping that it could hang on until the appeal and let the protocol-documentation chips fall where they may?

Regardless of the company’s legal thinking, it seems like “interoperability” is an easier pill for Microsoft to swallow when it’s delivered in press releases than in real-world situations.

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