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EU pushes for open-source standards as 'smart business'

EU pushes for open-source standards as 'smart business'

The EU's top antitrust official on Tuesday called for governments to favor open-source software for their own use, taking aim at Microsoft Corp. for 'locking in' customers to their proprietary technology.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said choosing open technology formats that can be used by different vendors _ often without paying a fee _ was "a very smart business decision."
She said no one should be forced to use a particular company's technology to access government information when open alternatives are available.
"No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one, through a government having made that choice first," she said in a speech at a conference organized by nonprofit open standards advocates OpenForum Europe.
She said the European Commission would do its part when it picks software standards for its own use, saying "it must not rely on one vendor, it must not accept closed standards, and it must refuse to become locked into a particular technology."
Her comments appeared to target Microsoft _ currently under EU investigation again for possible antitrust abuse _ which shunned an existing open format for archiving word processing documents backed by IBM and open source developers in favor of its own open version, Office Open XML, or OOXML.
Despite a chorus of complaints, OOXML was in April approved as an international standard that paves the way for it to be picked up by the IT departments of governments and large corporations. Critics of OOXML claim it locks out competitors, giving Microsoft customers no choice but to keep buying Microsoft programs forever.
Kroes said customers can pressure technology companies to open up their formats, saying this seems to have encouraged Apple Inc. to allow its iPod music players use other online music stores than iTunes and let iTunes serve competing music players.
She also said buyers need to be smart when they buy technology.
"We need to be aware of the long term costs of lock-in: you are often locked-in to subsequent generations of that technology," she said. "There can also be spillover effects where you get locked in to other products and services provided by that vendor."
Kroes said an industry should not rush to set standards that all rivals needed to follow. Companies that hold key patents to a technology should be clear about the royalties they would charge if their patent becomes part of a standard that the entire industry must follow, she said.


Updated : 2021-07-30 17:00 GMT+08:00