What's Not in the Microsoft-EU Deal on Enterprise Software Interoperability

Dennis Byron

In the latest chapter of the decade-old bureaucratic battle between the European Union (EU) and Microsoft, the October 7 Microsoft "browser ballot proposal," is getting all the IT- and mainstream-media buzz. Apparently it has been agreed to by the EU's anti-competition czar Neelie Kroes, supposedly in her rush to get on with her life after her term ends in December 2009.


But the real story is in the new expanded October 7 interoperability settlement proposed by Microsoft and what that settlement does not appear to cover (at least in what I learned spending an hour reading it):

  • Surface computing technologies and other forthcoming Microsoft augmented-reality technologies that will make browsers as common as green screens in a few years
  • Microsoft Azure cloud computing technologies, which will make "Microsoft's Primary PC Productivity Applications" (as defined in the Microsoft-EU legal blather) as common as WordPerfect and 1-2-3 in a few years
  • Entertainment and Device division products that Microsoft will turn into hybrids, as applicable to enterprises as they are to consumers; they might even make servers a thing of the past (although that will take more than a few years).


As with most bureaucracies, the EU is looking backwards. Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie has looked forward and decided what matters to Microsoft's future. Boat anchors like desktop-bound Office and the 20-year-old idea of using a browser for information access have been thrown in the North Sea, an anchor around the so-called EU computer industry that Kroes has spent her EU tenure trying to jumpstart (seeMicrosoft's 2008 10-K and the EU: Listening to the Dog That Didn't Bark)


Enjoy "retirement," Neelie. (Note: Her rush to settle with Microsoft before the end of her term is widely reported along with statements that she would also like to settle open issues with Google and Qualcomm. The New York Times article referenced immediately above says that Kroes could be reappointed to the EU Commission. I do not know enough about byzantine EU politics to tell whether that means she would continue as anti-competition czar or get promoted to some more harmful role. But, to borrow Richard Nixon's famous line, it looks like I won't have Neelie to kick around anymore.)

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