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MS-EDS buddies operations deepen

So now EDS can sell you even more and even bigger MS systems...

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EDS has broadened its relationship with Microsoft. The plan is for EDS to "design, deploy, manage and support Microsoft-based server and desktop infrastructure solutions" for NT Server and Exchange with EDS' Distributed Systems Management offering. To achieve this, EDS will train and certify up to 7,000 MCSEs or MCSDs in what is claimed to be the largest MS certification decision to date. EDS has 120,000 staff. EDS will be given preferential ("early") access to MS software. The alliance was announced jointly by Jeff Heller, CEO of EDS and Microsoft President Steve Ballmer. Exchange was not suitable for EDS' requirements initially as the global address list in Exchange was not large enough. Microsoft fixed this for EDS, apparently, although there were still other problems with the product. The relationship raises again serious questions about the impartiality EDS and the wisdom of employing the firm, in view of undisclosed commissions that EDS will doubtless get from the arrangement. There have been many reports of contractual problems between EDS and its UK public sector clients in the UK, and elsewhere. It would appear that in most of these situations, Microsoft software had been deployed. Microsoft is also deploying its consulting services arm, which it admits is biased to only Microsoft products, to increase its take-home pay from joint deals. Internally, EDS has "standardised" on Microsoft software, which calls into question not just its independence but also its ability to advise about Unix, Apple, NetWare or Notes and other non-Microsoft systems. Another aspect of this deal that should interest competition authorities is Microsoft's practice of giving preferential access to beta software to "strategic partners", especially as Microsoft itself refers to Windows and Office as "the standard". This is a good reason for Judge Jackson to declare Windows to be an essential facility and to introduce regulations that do not allow prior access to Microsoft's partners. The EDS-Microsoft relationship has been building for 12 years, and as a result of the recent deal, EDS is perhaps now best viewed as a Microsoft systems integrator, rather than an independent organisation. A strange EDS Web page attempts to set out the advantages of using EDS and Microsoft: "become part of the Internet revolution" it says; "grow your business through more effective communication"; and "turn your employees into knowledge workers" it exhorts. Just how the Microsoft relationship helps the EDS client is not clear, but another Web page that sets out EDS' criteria for strategic partners does provide some insight as to how EDS benefits: the partner must "be willing and able to establish an economic linkage". It is also comforting to read that "EDS invented the electronic services industry" in its "more than 35 years" existence. It probably invented television too. ®

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