Microsoft seems to have gotten the message that there are other technologies in the data center.
The software giant has formed the Interoperability Customer Executive Council, an organization made of up government and business representatives who will relay their concerns on making Microsoft products work better with other technologies.
Ok, stop snickering. Especially you Java programmers.
Microsoft said the decision came from increasing customer pressure for a greater level of interoperability between IT vendors.
The company said it is "committed to building bridges across the industry to deliver products to its customers that are interoperable by design," according to a statement released today.
The council will be hosted by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the server and tools business at Microsoft. It will meet twice per year at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash.
The initial membership includes Societe Generale, LexisNexis, Kohl's Department Stores, Denmark's Ministry of Finance, Spain's Generalitat de Catalunya and Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI), and the states of Wisconsin and Delaware.
The group will eventually expand to 30 members, covering both governments and private firms.
"Governments are very important customers, they are some of our largest customers around the world," said Tom Robertson, general manager of interoperability and standards at Microsoft. "We want to make sure we have good representation from different customers around the world."
Robertson said Microsoft has been in discussions with these firms and governments for a while, but this is the first time Microsoft has formalized the process to get feedback in a collective way.
Microsoft has often been criticized for its "not invented here" mentality, but has gotten better at playing with others in recent years.
It has introduced Linux support into Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, collaboration agreements with SAP AG, Hyperion Solutions and Sugar CRM, set up an open source lab called Port 25 and is actively taking part in Web services standards like Web Services Interoperability (WS-I).
It may even mean Microsoft building interoperability with other products.
"This is all about listening to our customers, listening to the pain points they have in deploying heterogeneous systems," Robertson added.
"We're going to think of ways to solve those problems, and that may involve working with partners and competitors."
Pund-IT analyst Charles King applauded the move.
"If the company wants to make further or better penetration than they've had to date, they need to learn how to play well with others rather than attempting to railroad them out of the building," said King.
King does wonder how getting together with the company twice a year in Redmond will do any good, and that it will take some time to see if this is window dressing or if something substantive comes out of it.
In related news, Microsoft today tabbed Andrea L. Taylor as the director for U.S. Community Affairs.
Microsoft said Taylor will work closely with nonprofit organizations, governments and businesses in the U.S. to advance employability and work-force development.
"A strong economic future depends on the strength and readiness of the U.S. work force, and it is important to support efforts to ensure that technology and skills are accessible to underserved communities across the country," Taylor said in a statement.