Thought for the day: Vive la difference

We should follow the the example of our European neighbours and embrace web services, says Simon Moores

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We should follow the the example of our European neighbours and embrace web services, says Simon Moores.




When I was interviewing the Microsoft chief executive officer for Europe, Jean Philippe Courtois, last week, we touched briefly on web services and areas where he felt that Europe was leading the rest of the world.

The arrival of the internet made the world a much easier place to develop workable "open" standards, and standards can be good for business as they can deny a single company the opportunity of controlling an important technology.

You may have read that Microsoft has finally been persuaded to reveal its source code to governments and has been working with the industry to develop and support the next generation of open standards and technical rules such as Soap, XML, UDDI and WSDL.

Of course, Microsoft’s view of the future doesn’t always coincide with everyone else’s, particularly if you happen to be Sun Microsystems or IBM, but Courtois comments:

"Our XML-based interoperable world where data can be shared as easily as text and pictures, is an example of how we are enhancing technologies and connecting all systems, not just Microsoft's. This is a credible, open and innovative approach which even our sceptics would agree is a real commitment."

Where XML is involved, at least there is a consensus, or as close to one as you’re ever likely to find in this industry, which has XML acting rather like the fax machine of the 21st century.

What do I mean by this? Fax machines are taken for granted these days because the technology negotiates which standard they use to communicate with each other, in this case the transmission speed.

XML, the foundation on which web services are being built, does much the same thing but in terms of a common understanding of what a piece of information, such as "customer" or "date" actually means in a document being passed between different systems.

For XML to work, everyone has to work together, friend and foe alike, with no room for any one company to stay outside what is effectively the equivalent of the Euro currency for web services.

Courtois points out that because of the demand for legislative "harmonisation" between member states, "the EU is leading in developing many standards of the new interoperable and secure computing environment; this again offers opportunities for us to both learn and contribute."

Asked if there are fundamental differences in challenges facing the company in Europe, Courtois identifies three areas as uniquely European.

"There are some exceptional technology opportunities in Europe. Smart phone technology is one good example," he says.

"Tablet PCs can also leverage wireless advances in Europe, faster than in other markets. E-government is advancing quickly across Europe and European information workers are the prime beneficiaries of many of the technology advances that we are seeing."

So, it’s good news for Europe, with Courtois estimating that one and half million IT jobs have been created in the EU through the collision of the internet and the personal computer. And it's good news for Microsoft that more than one million people are engaged in reselling Microsoft technology in western Europe.

Compared with the UK, there is so much good news in Europe that I am seriously thinking of joining the long list of asylum-claiming columnists on the other side of the channel, where lunch takes two hours and where the trains run on time.

I don’t know anyone in IT who wouldn’t do the same if the opportunity arose. Would you?

What do you think?

Is the UK IT industry falling behind our European counterparts?  Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit

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