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More Eurotroubles on the Way for Microsoft

Well, here we go again. The European Union, not content to have already hammered Microsoft with all sorts of fines and other hassles (which Redmond has appealed, of course), wants more. This time, "people" (we just love Bloomberg's headline on this one) say that the EU is going to look into Microsoft's dominance in the word-processing and spreadsheet games. And if "people" say it, it must be true...right?

The EU's main beef seems to be with interoperability with productivity suites that compete with Office -- specifically, for instance, whether Microsoft is making it too hard for developers of, say, StarOffice to let their product handle Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

Microsoft counters with its Office Open XML format, which was cruising through various certification organizations on its way to becoming a standard (having already been accepted by at least one) -- until this week, when things hit a bit of a snag. Regardless, Microsoft says that OOXML and its thousands of pages of documentation make it possible (if not necessarily easy, we'd hasten to add) for developers of rival systems to create interoperability with Office formats.

We're all for interoperability here at RCPU, and we're all for anything that makes it easier. But we're not for excessive government intervention into anybody's business or products -- and we're not for measures that weaken intellectual property. So let's see what rivals have to say about Word and Excel and how legitimate their claims seem (although we suspect there will be nothing new under the Eurosun). Our guess is that this whole episode amounts to more Microsoft-baiting from the EU and Redmond's rivals...and more multi-figure paychecks for corporate lawyers.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 19, 2007


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