In what is being called a “major shift in the company’s business practices,” Microsoft announced in a conference call Thursday that it would open up and share some of its business secrets with other software companies, including its competitors.
This is a substantive policy change for a company commonly criticized for its handling of competition.
Microsoft admitted that the change is a “slight nod” to the nine-year battle that just ended between the company and European Anti-trust lawyers.
“Today Microsoft is describing a set of fairly broad changes to our technology and business practices, designed to further increase the openness of our products, and to drive greater interoperability and choice for developers, for partners, and for competitors,” said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. “We’re implementing four new interoperability principles that will apply to our high volume products.”
What are those four principles? According to Ballmer:
- “We’re committing to ensure open connections for our high volume products.”
- “We’re committing to promote data portability for our high volume products.”
- “We’re committing to enhancing Microsoft’s support for industry standards.”
- “We’re committing to fostering a more open engagement with industry, as well as the open source software community.”
Microsoft will initiate this change by releasing over 30,000 pages of technical documentation, detailing how programs like Windows desktop and server programs communicate. Before today, this information was only available through a private license by Microsoft.
This new open business strategy is expected to make it easier for third party and other software groups to build products that connect directly with Microsoft programs.
“We’re further opening the connections to our high volume products so that software developers, business partners, and competitors can more robustly interact with those products and extend them or invent new solutions for customers,” said Ray Ozzie, chief software architect for Microsoft. “We’ll do this by publishing detailed specifications of these products protocols and external APIs, including all such interfaces used by Microsoft’s other products.”
Thus, developers using the newly published specs to connect their own products to Microsoft’s products will be able to do so using the same means and methods that Microsoft has at its disposal.
Click here to view video highlights from Thursday’s conference.
See also: The New York Times