Within the EU, a delicate game is afoot. A group of MEPs is trying to ascertain if Microsoft can be ruled out of public procurement processes because they’ve been found guilty of serious misconduct through anti-competitive behaviour in the recent past. This is a reference to Microsoft’s recent fine of 1.68 billion euros by the EU for abusing its position in the PC operating systems market place. In the latest move, Green Party MEPs have been attempting to clarify whether, under Article 93 of the EU’s financial regulations, Microsoft should be excluded from current or future public procurement procedures.
In response to the MEPs, the EU commission has equivocated over the public procurement issue and refused to rule out excluding the computer giant from future EU public procurement.
This follows hard on the heels of another move to maintain the EU’s focus on open standards. On 10th June, EU Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, emphasised the importance of open standards and the need to avoid lock-in to single vendors. Without mentioning Microsoft by name, she reiterated the EU Commission’s commitment to not accepting closed standards, arguing that: “when open alternatives are available, no citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to use a particular company’s technology to access government information.”
This last statement got me thinking though. All the media coverage of these developments focuses on Microsoft and the on-going debate about their Office products and open or proprietary document data formats. But, where does Google fit into all this? How do most citizens go about trying to ‘access government information’?
Like chess this is a strategic game, full of slow deliberation and careful moves. But the world of technology is changing rapidly and there is much talk of Microsoft’s dominance coming to a natural end as technology moves away from the era of the PC. At the end of the game the EU’s opponent may not turn out to be who we all thought it was.