Microsoft, long criticized for technically isolating its products to squeeze out competitors, announced on Wednesday the formation of a group of its own executives and outside IT professionals to discuss interoperability issues.The company\u2019s Interoperability Customer Executive Council will meet twice a year at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash. The council will be led by Bob Muglia, an 18-year Microsoft veteran who is senior vice president of its server and tool business division.So far, the council\u2019s members include chief information and chief technology officers from Societe Generale Group, a French bank; LexisNexis; Kohl\u2019s Department Stores; Denmark\u2019s Ministry of Finance; Generalitat de Catalunya, the governing organization for Spain\u2019s Catalonia region; Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, Spain\u2019s intelligence agency; and the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Delaware.The announcement comes as Microsoft is appealing the European Commission\u2019s March 2004 antittrust decision that fined the software giant 497 million euros (US$625 million). The ruling in part focused on interoperability, forcing Microsoft to open up the source code for server communications protocols to competitors in the workgroup server market. The disclosure is intended to allow competing server software to interact with the Windows OS as well as Microsoft\u2019s own server products do.The European Commission has criticized Microsoft for not providing usable information, at one point threatening to fine the company 2 million euros\u00a0per day. Microsoft has said its documentation is sufficient, and that the commission\u2019s demands for more documentation could compromise its intellectual property.The interoperability council will work with Microsoft\u2019s product teams to discuss issues such as connectivity, application integration and data exchange. Microsoft said businesses realize that having compatible software systems reduces costs and means better information access.Microsoft also said it would work with competitors on interoperable technologies.-Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service (London Bureau)This article is posted on our Microsoft Informer page.\u00a0For more news on the Redmond, Wash.-based powerhouse, keep checking in.Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.