Why the EU Microsoft Ruling Can't Work

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…


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Posted September 26, 2007

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

(Page 1 of 3)

I’ve been thinking about the EU judgment EU judgment ever since Microsoft lost the appeal, and I’ve concluded that it not only won’t work, it can’t work and, in my opinion, it’s one of the dumbest moves I’ve seen a government make in business. The only thing it will likely do is aggravate a bunch of Microsoft executives who didn’t make the related decisions (those that did have moved on) in the first place.

So this week I’ll chat a bit on what it takes to make two very different products interoperate as seamlessly as a common platform does. I’ll explain further why I think Microsoft’s only real choice may be to Open Source their platform, and I’ll reiterate why that could work better for them long term.

I’ll also point out how the EU, through this judgment and their behavior, are actually ensuring that nothing close to the interoperability they want will actually be achieved. Not that a government working cross-purposes is unique – the current U.S. administration seems to make an art form out of it. Be aware that I’m typically skeptical of government actions in free markets. They tend to move too slowly, are more interested in looking like they are accomplishing something than actually accomplishing it, and often do more damage than good as a result.

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Integration is Hard

Getting two different products to work together seamlessly is hard. As anyone who has worked in a diverse IBM shop and used System View knows, the promise of high interoperability was never truly met across IBM’s diverse platforms. Some may remember AD/Cycle as another initiative that was to bring commonality in IBM; it died a painful death after making almost no actual progress.

Eventually IBM bought and implemented a third party product (Tivoli) which did a far better job of allowing IBM’s platforms to be centrally managed, but natively IBM’s various platforms still lack the level of interoperability that the EU seems to want between Microsoft and its competitors.

Inside Microsoft, to solve this problem between Microsoft’s own products (and they supposedly had one core code base) they first had to create and implement a broad program called .NET and then had to hire the granddaddy of all collaboration experts and give him Bill Gate’s old title to make progress. They are making progress but it has taken years, a massive amount of management oversight, penalties and incentives, and it still has a long way to go.

If we take companies that have been created though merger, like CA, interoperability problems have been incredibly nasty, making everything I just mentioned look like child’s play. The turf wars in just getting stuff done were likely legendary in that company and go to why Oracle, when they bought PeopleSoft, just decided it was easier to shut down the acquired company than to get a high level of interoperability between the two company’s products.

Having one side of an interoperability problem be forced to interoperate without putting some effort into ensuring the other side will work toward the middle is like asking someone to clap loudly with one hand (without using another surface, for you whacky engineers out there).

Next page: Interoperability Goes Beyond Product

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