Like Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev, Ray Ozzie at Microsoft yesterday announced a new commitment to openness and interoperability with open source software. Here’s the excerpt from TechCrunch:
Aimed at making its products more interoperable with other software and the Web in general, Microsoft is releasing 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows (both desktop and server products) that were previously available to partners only through a trade secret license.
While Microsoft is not open-sourcing its own software, it is taking dramatic steps to play nice with the open-source community. This is a complete 180-degree turn from its stance of the past. The broad set of interoperability principles it is announcing today will apply to the following products (including future versions): Windows Vista (including the .NET Framework), Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007.
The four principles it is declaring are:
(1) ensuring open connections
(2) promoting data portability
(3) enhancing support for industry standards
(4) fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities.
This sounds like a big deal to me. TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld reminds us that Microsoft has said stuff like this before, and I don’t have the historical knowledge to confirm or deny that, but this is essentially handing over to anyone the documentation that the EU asked Microsoft to share with partners only through a trade secret license. With this knowledge, anyone in the world can build on top of platform, and Open Source Software can now be written to interoperate with Microsoft sotware with significantly more ease. That sounds pretty good to me. The EU’s response?
According to Gizmodo, “the EU is Skeptical of Microsoft’s open embrace.” Here’s an excerpt from the EU’s response:
Commission will verify whether Microsoft is complying with EU antitrust rules, whether the principles announced today would end any infringement were they implemented in practice, and whether or not the principles announced today are in fact implemented in practice.
Translation: “We’ll believe it when we see it.”
I suppose we’ll see how genuine Microsoft is on this one. And if they continue to act in good faith, then someone please take notice and tell the EU to get off Microsoft’s case.