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Clients to advise Microsoft on software linking

Council of IT execs will advise the company on how to make its products work better with other software.

Microsoft is turning to its customers for advice on how to better link its products to the outside world.

The company said Wednesday it is establishing a special council of about 30 large customers to advise the computing giant on how to make its software better interoperate with non-Microsoft products.

The Interoperability Customer Executive Council will meet twice a year at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters to identify and prioritize issues relating to interoperability, the company said.

The council will be headed by Bob Muglia, the senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, and include high-level IT executives from large Microsoft customers.

"We hear from customers that interoperability is as important as security or reliability," said Tom Robertson, the general manager of interoperability and standards at Microsoft. "(But) we haven't had a formalized process where we pull people together and think about the various scenarios."

Some of the founding members of the council, which will meet for the first time in September, include representatives from the French bank Societe Generale, LexisNexis, Denmark's Ministry of Finance, and the states of Wisconsin and Delaware.

Robertson said that the structure of the interoperability council came from Microsoft's experience setting up a similar security council with customers.

Microsoft has stepped up efforts to make its products work better with those from other vendors, according to company executives.

Windows and its .Net development software are proprietary but company resprentatives participate in standards bodies.

The company has also reorganized internally to make interoperability and standards-compliance a higher priority during product development, said Robertson who was named general manager of standards and interoperability last year.