Microsoft's OOXML tactics come under EU scrutiny

The number of probes the European Union has launched investigating Microsoft has increased to three, the Wall Street

Journal reported on Friday. The EU began an investigation into Microsoft's activities over its attempt to get Office Open XML adopted as an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard. A story reported by InformationWeek quotes Microsoft critic Andrew Updegrove on the news:

"The investigation will be especially welcome in standards circles, due to the wide range of reports from the field that Microsoft has engaged in 'stacking' of the national committees that were voting on OOXML as well as other overreaching activities intended to influence the result" of standards voting, said Andrew Updegrove, a standards expert who has opposed the Microsoft effort in the past, in an e-mail."

Microsoft's efforts - the cause of this current investigation -- did not pay off. ISO did not choose to put OOXML on the fast-track for adoption as a standard. But the controversy surrounding the vote (and the standard itself) has been unceasing both before and since the vote. Among the more juicy alleged tactics are accusations that Microsoft employees resorted to bribery, that ISO committee members were fed false information, and the Microsoft manipulated the committees.

Last month, the uproar started again. Microsoft executives slammed IBM, saying IBM sabotaged the vote, ZDNet UK reported. IBM retorted to the slam (per Ars Technica article ), and Microsoft retorted to IBMs retort, Network World reported. Nana-nana-boo-boo. The standards community has been doing a good job of mimicking a carload of cranky school-aged children.

So the EU, with its decidedly anti-Microsoft twist these days, will now investigate. It is also investigating antitrust accusations brought by Opera Software that Microsoft is competing unfairly in the browser market. And the EU is looking into how well Microsoft is following the EU's previous edict to make Windows communications protocols more available so that Windows works better with third-party applications. (It is that edict, urged along by the EU probe, that allowed Samba in December to license Windows documentation for $10K Euros - a boon to the open source community). 

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