Interoperability buzz

I have been working with ICT since the early 80s. At the time, we had a kind of hardware called PCM - Plug Compatible Machines. Compatible with what? The IBM Bus&Tag, SNA communications model. In the mid 80s, PCs started showing up in the banking industry (at least where I was working here in Brazil). Major need: IBM 3270 emulation. In the early 90s we wanted to access the Internet with DOS machines. Telnet, TCP/Ip. So, how does interoperability just became a buzzword now?

In the early 80s I started travelling around the world with my electronic appliances. At the time, you couldn't just plug your Brazilian stereo in South Africa. Now, a series of interoperability gadgets allow you to to plug your notebook everywhere in the world. Or -- should I say -- in the minority of the world that benefits from power grids.

Interoperability, today, came to play in a new reality where people still don't think software systems can work together. It is an important thing to ask for when you are buying or developing new hardware or software. However, it is a customer's prerogative. Customers have the power to buy anything and to hire anyone saying "Here is what I have. Whatever you provide me, it needs to work here. And, by the way, I want to serve my own customers through their cell phones, notebooks, and even their blenders".

Customers and citizens shouldn't worry about interoperability. They have been exposed in the past to incompatibilities such as VHS and Betamax. They know what they want now. Vendors seems not to grok it fully.

Customers don't want to join in a standards quarrel. They want their digital TV to work. They want to look at their bank balances using their iPhones. They want to dial a number and not to get lost behind the mirror following the march hare.

Customers don't even want to hear what interoperability is all about. I know that! I work with open source and interoperability in a project my company has in a partnership with Microsoft. We want to take out the inter from the interoperability. We want what everyone wants: operability. Meaning: things that just work the way we want!

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