Redmond (WA) - Today’s news from Redmond can only be considered revolutionary for Microsoft: The company wants its products to become much more inter operable with the outside world. Microsoft even said that it won’t sue over open source. Will Microsoft turn into the friendly software company next door - or is it simply tired of antitrust suits?
Microsoft’s interoperability "principles" circle around the central idea of enabling developers to connect their applications to what has been inaccessible Microsoft technology for most of them. The company promised to publish API documentation and communications protocols in its high-volume products that so far has only been available under trade secret agreements. As a result, developers will be able to connect their software to Microsoft’s high-volume products just like Microsoft does.
These "high-volume products" include Windows Vista (including the .NET Framework), Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007, and future versions of all these products, Microsoft said.
Available today, Microsoft has published more than 30,000 pages of (previously secret) documentation for Windows client and server protocols. Down the road, the company said it will document for the development community how it supports standards, including those Microsoft extensions that affect interoperability with other implementations of industry standards. For Office 2007, Microsoft promises to design new APIs for the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Office 2007 to enable developers to plug in additional document formats and to enable users to set these formats as their default for saving documents.
There is also a new "Open Source Interoperability Initiative", which will "promote and enable more interoperability between commercial and community-based open source technologies and Microsoft products". The project will provide "resources, facilities and events, including labs, plug fests, technical content and opportunities for ongoing cooperative development."
In a statement, chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said that "these steps represent an important step and significant change in how we share information about our products and technologies. For the past 33 years, we have shared a lot of information with hundreds of thousands of partners around the world and helped build the industry, but today’s announcement represents a significant expansion toward even greater transparency."
We leave it up to you to decide whether Microsoft is planning follow Google’s image of an innocent software company, but there is no doubt that the announcement will help the company in its current antitrust proceedings in Europe and the U.S. The European Commission announced in January that it is looking into the firm’s competitive practices once again, claiming that Microsoft may have failed to disclose information about interoperability regarding its Office products. In the U.S., the Microsoft vs. DOJ consent decree was extended by at least two years, stating that Microsoft has not yet provided certain documentation of its products.