EU takes swipe at Microsoft Jun 11, 2008 15:35:38 GMT -5
Post by Bozur on Jun 11, 2008 15:35:38 GMT -5
EU takes swipe at Microsoft
By James Kanter
Published: June 10, 2008
BRUSSELS: The European Union competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, took a swipe at Microsoft on Tuesday by recommending that businesses and governments use software based on internationally accepted standards.
Kroes has fought bitterly with Microsoft during the past four years, accusing the U.S. company of defying her orders and fining it nearly €1.7 billion, or $2.7 billion, for violating European competition rules. She did not mention Microsoft by name Tuesday, but encouraged computer users to avoid formats that, like many Microsoft products, are based on proprietary standards.
"I know a smart business decision when I see one - choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed," Kroes told a conference in Brussels hosted by OpenForum Europe, an industry body whose members include Microsoft rivals like IBM and Sun Microsystems.
Open standards allow software companies to develop products that work seamlessly together with those of other companies, according to OpenForum Europe. The open-source movement, which is different, advocates freely sharing the underlying code used for software, the group said.
Though Kroes did not name Microsoft, she made it clear that she meant the software giant when she referred to the only company in EU antitrust enforcement history that has been fined for refusing to comply with European Commission orders - a distinction held by Microsoft.
"The commission has never before had to issue two periodic penalty payments in a competition case," she said.
The EU has ruled against Microsoft for abusing its dominance in the markets for software to play music on computers and to communicate with powerful server computers on a network.
In recent months, Kroes has opened a new investigation into Microsoft after a complaint by Opera Software, a Norwegian company, accused Microsoft of stifling competition by tying its Internet browser to its Windows operating system. Kroes is also investigating whether Microsoft is making it too hard for rivals to work with its Office applications.
Microsoft said last month that its software update next year for Office would work with other document formats, allowing customers to use a wider range of products.
In addition, Open XML, a document format that is part of Microsoft Office, was approved as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization in April. However the designation has been challenged.
A spokeswoman for Microsoft in Brussels declined to comment on the speech by Kroes.
In her speech, Kroes said there were serious security concerns for governments and businesses associated with using a single software supplier. She praised Munich for using software based on open standards, along with the German Foreign Ministry and the Gendarmerie Nationale, a department of the French police force.
Kroes, a former cabinet minister and member of Parliament in the Netherlands, encouraged the Dutch government and Parliament to continue moving toward use of open standards.
EU agencies "must not rely on one vendor" and "must refuse to become locked into a particular technology - jeopardizing maintenance of full control over the information in its possession," she said.
Christian Ude, the mayor of Munich, who was also present at the event, said city employees were making the transition from reliance on Microsoft software to the free Linux operating system. The city government made a high-profile pledge in 2004 to change the operating software of 14,000 government computers.
"We want to determine the information technology in our municipality ourselves," said Ude.
Kroes said a policy adopted last year by the European Commission to promote the use of open standard software "needs to be implemented with vigor."