In what now appears to be a near daily experience, the European Union is investigating Microsoft for antitrust violations related to its attempts to get its Open Office XML file format standard accepted as an international "standard." As the argument goes, Microsoft apparently fought hard to get OOXML ratified as a standard.
European Union antitrust officials have asked Microsoft for information about its activities in the standards-setting process -- an early step in an investigation -- and are stepping up scrutiny of the issue, according to people familiar with the matter. The file format in question is computer code that describes how a document such as a letter or spreadsheet is digitally stored.
The keen interest in the Office file format comes amid two fresh EU antitrust probes, announced last month. One is examining Microsoft's Web browser; the other is looking broadly at how well Microsoft's products, including Office, work with those of competitors.
I think there's little doubt that Microsoft used anticompetitive measures to get OOXML approved (only to fail in the end). But the same is almost certainly true of the other side (IBM et al.). Microsoft has accused IBM of playing dirty. It is probably right.
I don't think anyone comes out of this inquiry looking clean. Hopefully, the EU will take some time to look at the suggested "standard" itself, since OOXML itself is the ugliest thing of all in the whole fracas.