Why the EU Microsoft Ruling Can't Work: Page 2

Posted September 26, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

(Page 2 of 3)

Interoperability Goes Beyond Product

Now let’s say they were successful and that two products from vastly different code basis could be made to work together in much the same way that two products from the same code base can work together (and that’s one heck of an assumption). What about support? If there’s a problem isn’t it likely one side will point to the source of the problem as the other side? Has anyone out there not run into this problem all the time between vendors?

What happens when either side patches? If the two sides don’t have a sustaining relationship, what’s the incentive for either to ensure that key parts of the resulting solution continue to function? When you are trying to match the integration between similar products this is very difficult because similar products have an inherent advantage when it comes to support and patching. They tend to get patched at the same time and, since the platforms are so close (or even identical) support staff is trained on the solution.

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Once you introduce a completely different product into the mix, the opportunity for breakage goes through the roof. You can have conflicting patches on both sides, conflicting support practices where the process you use to fix something on one platform may bring the other one down depending on the dependency. The opportunity for a truly catastrophic problem goes up strongly.

This is exactly the wrong time to have two companies or groups pointing at each other screaming “it’s your fault!” The IT folks just want the stuff to work.

This is why the Novell, Sun, and HP partnerships are so critical. By agreeing to cooperate and link development and support they deal with the hard part up front. And even if the products don’t interoperate seamlessly, the knowledge base that the joint support group acquires, over time, and the capability of actually creating better solutions and workarounds is greater because they are more often working together.

Why the EU is Forcing Failure

Now I’ve pointed out that even with a lot of incentives and executives running around with whips and chains on both sides, integration is hard. But it can be made harder. Let’s say you have two people working on a project and you tell one of them that when he or she is done you’re going to cut or reduce their salary by about half. I’m willing to bet – regardless of your threats – they will drag their feet forever.

The EU has been doing just that. Instead of trying to provide incentives to get the parties to work together, EU leaders say their goal in all of this is to dramatically reduce Microsoft’s market share. And then they wonder why no progress is being made. You almost want to wonder how they find the light switch in the morning.

Who in their right mind asks for a behavior and then vocally creates massive disincentives in the way of getting it? Politicians and bureaucrats evidently…

Next page: How this could work

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