Microsoft Banks On Interoperability To Extend Its Reach

Allen's Portland Trailblazers basketball team was the talk of the town after beating the lottery odds to secure the top pick in the NBA draft Tuesday. Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, had to contend with the power of that story as he discussed the company's interoperability strategy Wednesday at Interop Las Vegas 2007.

But in some ways, Allen's and Muglia's stories were the same. The Blazers proved that having a stake in a contest, however small, sometimes results in a win. For Microsoft and Muglia, pushing interoperability with systems across the industry is a way to get some purchase in spaces traditionally off-limits to the software giant.

"The integration within the Microsoft stack is one of the things you've come to expect. But that's not the interoperability I want to talk about," Muglia said in a keynote speech at Interop.

"What's changed is how we work across the industry. We've come to recognize that open-source projects and working on integrated solutions with other providers in the industry is good for our customers and good for Microsoft business."

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Muglia said the big interoperability push has put Microsoft square in the middle of new spaces as diverse as Web services, virtualization and VoIP, as well as strengthening the Redmond, Wash.-based company's position in areas like network access protection, document formatting and identity management.

Muglia was particularly excited about Microsoft's foray into voice.

"It's an interesting area. Microsoft is actively working to expand our product portfolio in communications with VoIP and by working with PBX vendors. It's a new area for Microsoft, but it's an area where Microsoft can play a key role in making our office software and other products interoperable with the PBX and VoIP guys," he said.

Commenting on recent saber rattling by Microsoft over possible patent litigation vs. open-source players, Muglia stressed Microsoft's position that cross-licensing deals are the answer to what the company deems are patent infringements by the Linux operating system and others.

"With open source, there's no mechanism to effectively license [software] and give intellectual property protection to customers," Muglia said, positioning the issue as one of end-user needs taking priority over those of open-source developers.

He was also quick to point out that, disputes with Linux and others aside, Microsoft is committed to open-source software development.

"Here's a little known fact: Microsoft is hosting 800 open-source projects. We have evolved our thinking about the way open source can work together with commercial systems to solve problems for customers," Muglia said.