It seems the topic of 2008 will also be the key topic of 2009. This is hardly surprising.
Interoperability is at the connecting point of innovation and standardisation, of Free Software and proprietary software, of SME’s and large enterprises, and is intrinsically connected with questions of public procurement and regulation of the market. From the perspective of a Free Software advocate, lack of interoperability is possibly the single largest obstacle to wide Free Software adoption today.
Aspects of this debate include the MS-OOXML standardisation process, the discussion about IDABC‘s European Interoperability Framework (EIF), and questions of antitrust, such as the complaint of ECIS, or the more recent complaint of Opera Software.
But not all parts of this debate are so visible. A recent workshop on “IPR in ICT standardisation” by the European Commission’s DG Enterprise has received little to no public echo. An analysis of the inherent conflicts between patents and standardisation in followup to this workshop has been published by FSFE as “Analysis on balance: Standardisation and Patents” in December 2008.
Similar issues also come up in the drafting of the “European Software Strategy” by DG INFSO, alongside questions of how to promote innovation, SME’s, what position to take on Free Software and several other issues.
What is common to all these discussions is that in almost all cases will all parties to these discussions agree that Open Standards are the basis of interoperability. Unfortunately these parties often mean something else when using the term. As already outlined in an earlier blog post about “An emerging understanding of Open Standards“, it seems to be possible to get agreement on certain points for approximately 80% of the global software industry. Agreement in Europe with its strong dominance of SME’s is likely to be higher.
This understanding – and a dialogue with policy makers, business representatives, and non-profit organisations – has become the basis of an Open Standards definition that has consequently been adopted in various places, including by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).
This definition of Open Standards seems a good starting point for the debates of 2009.