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Microsoft's interoperability documentation: A lesson in foot-dragging

Microsoft keeps talking up interoperability, but a US judge found that it's still not delivering on its promises.

For all its endless talk about really, really wanting to open up its documentation to enable interoperability with its products, Microsoft is still dragging its feet on delivery of this documentation, according to a US judge as reported by Ars Technica yesterday.

Today saw Kollar-Kotelly hold the latest hearing on the status of the consent agreements, and a number of reports suggest that there still seem to be problems there (no legal documents arising from the hearing have been filed yet). Although the Dow Jones Newswire seems to think everything is fine, other reports seem to contradict this.

Reuters, however, indicates that the Judge was a bit annoyed that Microsoft filed a document that suggested it viewed itself as being in full compliance with the agreement, given that the documentation wasn't ready. Referring to the 2009 date for the lifting of the consent agreement, she said, "That's not going to happen unless these things get done."

As a platform company, interoperability should help Microsoft. The problem is that Microsoft isn't simply a platform company anymore. It's an applications company, too. This hybrid problem can plague any big software company that has ambitions to creep into other fiefdoms: witness Oracle's move into the hardware appliance market, for example.

All that said, Microsoft has been making some headway on its documentation. It was thanks to the EU forcing open Microsoft's documentation that my own company, Alfresco, was able to support the SharePoint protocol to facilitate interoperability with Microsoft Office. I'm sure other companies are enjoying similar benefits.

However, it's frustrating that it has taken so long, and so much government pressure just to get Microsoft to do what is right for its platform business. Yes, interoperability may crimp Microsoft's plans for its applications business. Even if so, it's time for Microsoft to stop talking a big interoperability game and then choosing to ride the bench.