Breaking Down the Interoperability Barriers

It would be tempting for Europeans to gloat over the recent defeat of Microsoft after its nine-year battle with EU Antitrust Regulators. But rather than see this as an EU victory over a U.S. corporate giant, a more accurate and long-term perspective is to consider this a victory for the electronics business in general.

At the very root of this protracted battle lay the whole question of interoperability. In this case, rival companies can write server software that works with PCs using the Windows operating system.

Specifically, the U.S. software colossus agreed with the European Commission that developers of open-source software will have improved access to information regarding interoperability with its networking protocols. Secondly, the royalties for this information will be reduced to a nominal one-off payment of €10,000. Thirdly, the royalties for a worldwide license, which would include patents, will be cut to 0.4% from 5.95%. On top of that, to make sure that Microsoft sticks to the agreement, it can be legally enforced by the High Court of London.

So why is it a good deal for the electronics industry as a whole? Simply put, this product openness means that rival software companies can compete in the PC market and ultimately achieve profits because businesses and consumers will have a greater choice of software options to purchase. It could also limit the extent to which Microsoft creates future software that leads to greater dominance and control of the Internet.

And let’s be brutally frank here, the thought that software companies or telecomm providers, could end up controlling or manipulating the way the Internet is enjoyed by everyone is totally unacceptable— particularly since any such corporate ambitions would be profit rather than service driven.

Back to product openness. This always stimulates diverse product generation, and such an atmosphere ultimately drives industries forward. It’s well documented that monopolies and protectionism are the ultimate enemy of technological progress.

Does this defeat of Microsoft mean that many of us will be tempted to Samba? No, not a celebratory contortion on the dance floor. Rather, this is a dance with your computer keyboard.

And for those who are wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, it is Samba software. It can be run on UNIX, Linux, IBM System 390, OpenVMS, and other operating systems. Basically, it uses the TCP/IP protocol installed on the host server, enabling that server to interact with a Windows client or server.

Now that’s an interoperability barrier breaker.

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