EU Standards Body Accidentally Supports Microsoft

Includes: IBM, MSFT, ORCL
by: Dennis Byron

It used to be easy to follow a simple organization with a simple name such as the International Standards Organization (ISO) to know all you needed to know about the implications of standards on enterprise software market dynamics. And thereby all you needed to know about standards relative to investing in enterprise software suppliers.

Then seemingly out of nowhere (although it has been around under various inexplicably funded consortia acronyms for years) comes the Transatlantic Conumer Dialog (TACD) Intellectual Property (IP) Policy Committee. Really, I don't make up these names. These are same type of European Union (EU) wonks as the WEP/INSEAD/Global Competitiveness Network/Industry Partnership Program that gave us the fun blog post that said it was best to start a business in Iceland and Finland recently.

The TACDIP is complaining:

"If Internet users are to be truly free to choose whatever software and applications they desire to use, we need an established norm for open standards as a prerequisite for both consumer friendliness and easy market innovation in an fair, anti-monopoly environment."

It's kind of like the firestorm on the blogosphere in early April 2010 about net neutrality now that the second highest court in the U.S. has ruled that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) really has no authority vis a vis the Internet. That's not surprising to anyone except, apparently, the FCC.

But indecipharable-acronym groups like the TACDIP don't really do anything but issue white papers so their effect on the market for the shares of companies such as IBM, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) is more subtle than the DC Circuit Court's April 6 ruling in favor of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA).

Let's jump over the obvious flaw in the TACDIP whine. Internet users are already free "to choose whatever software and applications they desire to use." No open standards are required from the European Union or anyone else. Similarly, standards have never been especially supportive of user friendliness or market innovation. In the case of market innovation, failed standards efforts such as the Object Management Group's Common Object Request Broker Architecture slowed down the development of services oriented architecture (SOA) for a decade.

So what TACDIP really cares about, when you cut through the bullcrap, is its idea of a monopoly environment. It wants the EU to screw over Microsoft some more and screw its own taxpayers and citizens at the same time. Ironically, in the same week when so-called "Open Massachusetts" is incenting its citizens to learn Microsoft technology for free, these Eurocrat camp followers are urging the EU apparatus itself (the powerless quasi ubergovernment that regulates the shape of fruit in Europe and has other important functions not left to the EU's constituent nations) to cowboy up in favor of standards.

But as is typically the case with such consortia, TACDIP has conflated open standards with open source. So despite its stated intention to screw over Microsoft, TACDIP's move to support open source in the Euracracy, if it should suceed, helps Microsoft - which now has Codeplex - and harms Oracle and IBM, both of whom are in trouble in open source terms (Oracle for allegedly re-closing Solaris after the Sun acquisition and IBM for protecting its intellectual property). Microsoft's Codeplex is rapildy becoming the largest Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved, open-source-terms-and-conditions-based development community and library.

Another proofpoint for the law of unintended consequences!

Disclosure: No financial interest in companies mentioned except for the $12 a year I pay Microsoft for Office.