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EC's 'Steelie' Neelie snubs Microsoft Office

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European anti-trust commissioner Neelie Kroes today strongly rebuffed Microsoft by urging businesses and governments to use software based on open standards.

“I know a smart business decision when I see one – choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed,” said Kroes. “No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one.”

“Steelie” Neelie issued the scathing statement at a conference in Brussels this morning, reports the New York Times.

The European Commission, when making decisions on what technology to use, should choose to adopt open, well-documented standards over propriety ones, said Kroes.

EU agencies “must not rely on one vendor” and “must refuse to become locked into a particular technology – jeopardising maintenance of full control over the information in its possession,” she said.

In February Kroes slapped a record-breaking €1.35bn fine on Redmond for violating European competition rules. The EC jacked up the fine after the firm failed to comply with the original anti-trust ruling that found Microsoft was charging competitors too much for interoperability information for its servers.

Microsoft refused to cough up the initial penalty of €497m handed down by Kroes in 2004.

Kroes had said that she hoped the decision to issue two periodic penalty payments would close “a dark chapter in Microsoft's record of non-compliance."

However, at the start of this year the EC began two fresh investigations into Microsoft’s business practices following complaints about the software giant’s Internet Explorer browser and interoperability issues with its Office apps.

The Commission is also probing how the International Standards Organisation (ISO) ratified Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) as a second standard alongside Open Document Format (ODF) in March this year.

Microsoft secured enough votes despite a wide range of complaints against the firm’s highly controversial document format which is perhaps years away from being compatible even with its own Office products.

Late last week the ISO confirmed that four national standards body members – Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela – had issued formal appeals against the approval of OOXML as an international standard.

Officials at the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission will consider the appeals with an outcome expected to be announced by the end of June.

If the two management boards agree to carry the appeals forward, a panel will be established and the process to resolve the dispute could take several months, thereby delaying the official blessing of OOXML as an international standard. ®

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