EU Warns Against Using Microsoft Document Formats

The European Union (EU) continued its curiously partisan attack on Microsoft with a recommendation this week that businesses and governments use alternative open source document formats instead of Microsoft's. The recommendation comes in the wake of a contentious standardization process for Microsoft's Open XML format, which was eventually ratified as an open standard by both ECMA and ISO. Tough cookies, says the EU: You should use something else anyway.

"I know a smart business decision when I see one, \[and\] choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed," EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said during a conference in Brussels. "No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one." Kroes also warned about the security implications of governments relying on a single, dominant supplier. In case the allusions here are too vague, she's talking about Microsoft.

Forgetting for a moment that OpenXML was made an open standard in April, Kroes noted that her recommendation was influenced by Microsoft's recalcitrant behavior during its years-long antitrust issues with the EU. "The \[European\] Commission has never before had to issue two periodic penalty payments in a competition case."

Crazy talk aside, Microsoft is facing some legitimate issues with regards to Open XML. Four countries--Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela--have complained recently that the fast-track standardization process for Open XML prevented them from making recommendations. They're appealing the decision to standardize the format and have asked for a review. The ISO is investigating the claims.

And speaking of investigations, the near-conclusion of Microsoft's original EU antitrust case doesn't mean the company is off the hook there. Kroes and Company at the EC have launched separate investigations into Microsoft's Internet Explorer and, yep, you guessed it, document formats.

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