Why the EU Microsoft Ruling Can't Work: Page 3

Posted September 26, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

(Page 3 of 3)

Getting This to Work

First, if you want to change a company’s behavior you need to be able to hold individuals accountable who created the problem in the first place. If I know that I’ll be retired before anyone can actually do anything, or in another job, there is little incentive to behave.

Second, interoperability between two separate products requires movement on both sides to get done. Having one side do it is like trying to clap with one hand, it just won’t happen.

Third, the problem wasn’t created by Microsoft’s market share, it was partially created by the lack of adequate and timely law enforcement. The EU shares the blame for the problem, and accountability should likely flow both ways so that the core problem will not repeat with another company and/or another industry. Microsoft isn’t the sustaining problem, a process that takes 5 to 10 years or more to complete is.

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Fourth, the punitive action has to fit within a framework of things that actually will work. Completely different products won’t perfectly interoperate ever, but with a mix of services and technology you can get really close. You have to find a way to drive alliances that will work. And you typically do that with a combination of incentives and penalties. Or you can set and enforce standards as a government but that will slow significantly advancements in your geography (when was the last time AC plugs changed? Or electrical power in general changed, or gas systems changed, or…).

Fifth, while fines can be effective some portion of the fine should go to help fix the problem. Having all the money go into a general EU pot, which appears to be the case, makes it look like the EU is just looking for excuses to milk a U.S. company, creating natural animosity between nations. Should nationalism kick in, the cost to the EU could vastly exceed the benefit.

Sixth, the experts used in cases like this should have some perspective of history. For instance, AOL put forth a complaint similar to the one regarding the Windows Media Player when Windows 95 launched. History proved, much like it has done with the Windows Media Player, that the complaint was groundless given alternative delivery methods (and we all got free floppy disks, and later CDs, from AOL for awhile).

Seventh, whether in government or business every organization needs someone that, from time to time, raises their hand and says “this is stupid let’s not do it.” It would keep a lot of companies from getting into trouble and it would keep a lot of governments from losing the confidence of their constituents.

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