Microsoft Announces Significant Announcement

Published on February 21, 2008
by John Paczkowski

Microsoft (MSFT) made a “significant” company announcement this morning, one thankfully unrelated to its bid for the much diminished Yahoo (YHOO) Inc.

But what is there for the software giant to talk about these days other than Yahoo, really? Why that old saw, software interoperability, of course. In a statement issued this morning, the software giant announced changes to its technology and business practices intended to “increase the openness of its products and drive greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for developers, partners, customers and competitors”–which translates roughly as “appease European antitrust officials.”

Among the key changes:

  • Microsoft will make the protocols and APIs in its high-volume products openly available to the developer community.
  • Microsoft will indicate which protocols are covered by Microsoft patents and will issue licenses to those patents on “reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms, at low royalty rates.”
  • Microsoft will implement a covenant not to sue open-source developers for development or noncommercial distribution of implementations of those protocols.
  • Microsoft will support open standards and work with developers and standards-setting bodies to enable the transfer of user data from Microsoft applications to apps designed by third-party developers.

“Customers need all their vendors, including and especially Microsoft, to deliver software and services that are flexible enough such that any developer can use their open interfaces and data to effectively integrate applications or to compose entirely new solutions,” Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, said in a statement. “By increasing the openness of our products, we will provide developers additional opportunity to innovate and deliver value for customers.”

Quite a move for a company whose leadership once likened Linux to “cancer” and derided open-source licensing models as “Pacman-like.” Though it’s not like we haven’t seen this all before.

“They are not making the source codes open, but they are opening the gates that allow you into the compound,” said Matt Asay, a general manager at open-source management company Alfresco. “It’s a great first step. … It’s a bold move by Microsoft. It’s a good indication of Microsoft’s self-confidence that it feels it can open up what effectively are its crown jewels and not lobotomize its company at the same time.”

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