Microsoft is on an Interoperability push. This campaign has been described by the New York Times as ” Microsoft’s latest effort to move from being a company that insists on the advantages of its own products to one that can adapt when customers use other companies’ goods.” The Times then went on to cite 3 major drivers for this interoperability push:
1)The European commissions recent antitrust actions found Microsoft wanting on interoperability and being forthright with its partners, vendors and customers;
2)large organizations are telling Microsoft that interoperability is as important to them as reliability and security – so get on board;
3)security and authentication across OS and application platforms has reached crisis proportions – like Iraq, a fix is needed now.
But I would see three additional reasons for this push:
4)this is a due diligence and compliance exercise. Microsoft is under court scrutiny for anti-competitive practices in the US, Europe, Japan among major jurisdictions. Just to meet their obligations steps towards interoperability have to be taken;
6)this is a Flak catcher. In the next few months Microsoft will be unleashing a blitz of standards defying and/or demanding (“take it or leave, but this is the way standards must read”) proposals and tactics. These will be in the areas of Linux patents, licensing and interoperability; collaboration and messaging frameworks; AJAX, XML and Web Services; GUI frameworks; and data storage and persistence APIs/methodologies among others.
So now Redmond can either say “lets take this up at the Interop Vendor Alliance” which will force vendors to accede to a group a)dominated by Redmond and embracing pseudo-standards which may not have broad industry acceptance; or they can say “see, we tried but the industry is not moving fast enough so we have to go it alone and aw shucks, set the standards.
If we look at at who is in the Interop Alliance it is a remarkable number of companies that have received large sums of money from Microsoft or are or were petitioning for co-operative favors from Redmond. If Adobe or IBM or Sybase or Oracle were in the Allliance it would have pull. Look at who is leading the Alliance. Now Bob Muglia, who is VP of Interoperability and spearheading co-operative thrusts, is not only a nice guy but also has handled some of Microsofts own wicked internal problems. But Bob faces the equivalent of the voters calls for bipartisanship from the Congress and a President who has been beating the newly empowered Democrats over the head with a baseball bat of politcal muckraking right up to and including November 7th, the day of the recent election.
In sum, as Interoperability Czar at Microsoft, Bob Muglia has well nigh Mission Improbable if not Impossible. How can he hope to instill the elements of fairness, win-win, and trust in an organization that prides itself on being just this side of devious. But we know where nice guys finish – and especially in the Machiavellian Microsoft Executive Suite.