Interoperability - Customer vs. Vendor Input

In James Governor's Monk Chips posting recently he made some kind comments about me that I am flattered by. First, I'd like to point out that there are many, many people looking at interop at Microsoft and I'm lucky to be working as part of the group. 

I do want to address something he raises as it is something we thought quite a bit about in setting up the customer council. James wrote:

"If I have a criticism its an obvious one. If you're going to create an interoperability council its pretty much pointless without the participation of other vendors-the obvious first two partners would be Sun and JBoss."

As I talked about in an earlier posting, the council is all about establishing a structured dialoge about interop with customers. I have no doubt that part of that dialogue will necessarily be about our working relationship with many different vendors. In fact, one of the explicit pieces of feedback we have received from our charter members is that they are interested in how we are working with other key vendors. So, there are no members of the council who are other vendors - but other vendors will by definition need to be part of this conversation. James, we hear you sir. Its just that the structure needs to be such that we can work with multiple vendors effectively - even those who are in competition with each other as well.

I think though, that between James and Brent there are some really sticky things to be hashed through in order to really get a grip on interop. Brent has been working hard to get us thinking about what interop means in the context of people because at the end of the day interop in all of its many facets truely bubbles up to both the most sophisticated and simplistic users of technology. It is more than formats and protocols.

Building bridges, control of data, managing costs, maintaining choice - these are just as much in the interop discussion as data/app/system/network interop, etc.

I am reminded of a man whom I have not spoken to in quite some time, but whose erudition in computing I deeply respect. R0ml has given many speaches about the fungibility that his ex-employer (large financial institution) seeks in its technology procurement practices. Interop is a major factor in enabling them to derive points of leverage with their vendors. I posit that the leverage they gain is only useful to the extent that it provides the fungibility. Their drive for unique solutions that provide high-value resulting in greater efficiency, opening the door to new lines of business, and/or providing some competitive edge in their markets will quickly sacrifice interop in order to acheive other goals.

I'd love your comments on the nature of interop. How do you see it and where do you think we stand? Some have commented to me that MS products individually are great at interop, but MS as a whole is not.  If you had the chance to make a wish and have us solve one interop issue, what would it be? (Some of you may want many more than one wish.)