Microsoft pledges (yet again) that it wants to be interoperable

Microsoft pledges (yet again) that it wants to be interoperable

Summary: Microsoft's "significant" announcement on February 21 turns out to be not so significant at all. Microsoft is promising -- for the umpteenth time -- that it will share all the protocols and programming interfaces needed to allow interoperability between its products and others.


Microsoft's "significant" announcement on February 21 turns out to be not so significant at all. Microsoft is promising -- for the umpteenth time -- that it will share all the protocols and programming interfaces needed to allow interoperability between its products and others.

Why is Microsoft going through the motions yet again? It's all about next week. From February 25 to 29, ISO is slated to hold a long-awaited ballot-resolution meeting regarding whether or not Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document format should be awarded ISO standards status.

On February 21, Microsoft pledged that it will adhere to four new "interoperability principles." The four:

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.

Yes, this is from the company who has been using threats of potential lawsuits to try to deter customers from using Linux (unless it is a brand of Linux whose vendor has signed a patent-protection agreement with Microsoft). A company which had to be forced by the European Commission to open up its server-communications protocols so that Samba and others could make their products interoperate with Windows. And a company that recently published its old Office document formats because doing so was a an ISO request.

Microsoft is really pulling out all the stops to make sure OOXML gets the ISO standards nod. Losing lucrative government contracts here and abroad that require "open" standards would be no financial joke for the company.

I believe there are individuals at Microsoft who understand that interoperability is important to customers. But until Microsoft shows a real change in its behaviors around interoperability, I see pledges like these as little more than the same-old rhetoric.

What about you? Do you see anything new or tangible in Microsoft's February 21 interoperability pledges?

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • false promises

    sort of like Google saying they respect data privacy
  • Microsoft is reaching out..thats always good

    I think your post is overly critical and unbalanced.
    • ground rules

      also, this has Ray Ozzie written all over it. The next round of Microsoft products will be delivered under the helm of Ozzie and I'm glad to hear him lay down some ground rules for themselves going forward.
    • Overly critical and unbalanced...

      Had this been the first time Microsoft stepped up to the podium making these promises you might have a point. Since it is far from the first time, I find the level of criticism and balance to be, if anything, a little light-handed. Exactly when is it that you believe companies should be held to account for promises they make? It sounds like never, which means you're either the kind of free-market capitalist who believes that companies should never be held accountable for anything, or you're the kind of free-market capitalist who believes that Microsoft should never be held accountable for anything. Either way, it looks bad for you.
    • critical

      I am genuinely curious about which parts of today's announcement you find significant and useful. Do you see something I don't that will make developers' and/or customers' lives easier/better? I have been asking customers this morning about this announcement and so far I can't find anyone who sees anything new/different/useful.

      If you do see something, I genuinely am interested in hearing more about what you see.... Thanks.
      Mary Jo Foley
      • critical reply

        The timing to all of this is just too convenient to believe that it is anything but a "campaign pledge" prior to the ISO election. Had this announcement come a couple of weeks prior to something like one of the O'Reilly open source conferences along with demonstrable efforts at the conferences to showcase true intent, then it may have been believable. Coming now, it smacks too much of a self-serving statement that will be forgotten immediately after the vote, regardless of the outcome.

        Microsoft may be in a good position to head down the OSS road, but people are watching their actions now, not listening to their marketing department on this front. They have made some significant strides in opening up certain properties, and this shouldn't be discounted, yet there are also a remarkable number of qualifiers in most of the MS "OSS" licenses that make people leery of adopting their interpretation of open source.
        • One question and its the only one that matters.

          Has Microsoft sued anyone for it? If not, then there is no reason to not belive what they have said and then reiterrated. (Unless of course you are Mary Jo and need to write something that gets hits.)
          • Message has been deleted.

          • Wrong again, its never happened.

            No one at Microsoft has ever said they were suing. They have however agreed with the FSF when it said Linux probably violates around 300 patents.

            Why would you get all bent out of shape for them agreeing with the FSF?
          • Message has been deleted.

          • Don't bother reading No_Axe

            his name is a misnomer.
          • Not The Only Question That Matters

            Mary Jo is pointing out Microsoft's track record for similar promises.

            Some people may find such factual review offensive, but the facts about Microsoft's past record speak loudest of all.
          • Surprise look who is defending MS! need only threaten suits - NT

          • M$ doesn't need a lawsuit to get what they want

            Who needs a lawsuit when you can just steamroller the competition with brute force and a few million dollars?

            Why do you think Apple had such a small market share for so many years? Why do you think Netscape browser got all but shut down?

            The main reason they started suing the open source creators was because bribery didn't work. They weren't in it to make money to begin with, so MS had to hit them where it did hurt - licensing.
    • The real question is...

      ...are the opinions she expresses valid? If they're not, feel free to point out why. Are there things she's not considering, but should? Feel free to point that out too. Are there important details she's leaving out of her stories? Feel free to fill the rest of us in.

      The whole question of "media bias" has been severely overplayed over the past 30 years are so. Balance and objectivity have their place in news reporting, but the important things are that people get an accurate picture of what's going on, that any opinions expressed are supportable, given the data, and that the goal is to inform and discuss, rather than to persuade. Objectivity is thus a means to an end, not the end itself.
      John L. Ries
      • Balance vs Fact

        The concept of Balance has its flaws, mainly because there
        are some things which are impossible to balance. The
        facts clearly support one side or the other. Mary Jo hasn't
        actually said that they won't, she's pointed out that they
        haven't followed through in the past, and is there anything
        different about this particular time.

        I agree with you Mary, I don't think anything has changed,
        and it seems plausible that they're doing all of this in an
        effort to get the ISO stamp on OOXML.
    • Reaching out ...

      ... to pleasure itself.
    • Reaching out like a strangler... the post is overly realistic for you? - NT

    • To be critical is part of her job desciption and we have heard

      promises 'umpteen times' before. Usually the promises are NOT kept unless there is constant presssure and scrutiny. MS is not alone doing this, but it does have a long history of doin it.

      To believe all this and NOT keeping pressure up, is like a strong belief in Santa Claus.
    • "Ebrace, Extend, Extinguish"! Reaching Out 4 What? ;)

      Only ones Reaching Out is everyone else! Take Microsoft's Wonderful Group of Catch 22 API's for Gaming and Multimedia.

      Microsoft lives by their "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" Corporate Doctrine that goes back to their very roots. Once a theif always a theif. Back in the Mid 90's M$ claimed they wanted to be interoperable. They crippled OpenGL on Windows to make it look bad. SGI challenged them by optomizing OGL for Windows themselves. They proved OGL ran as good or better than DirectX.

      In XP and Vista they were back to thei old tricks with a crippled version of OGL and forcing Developers to not offer a choice between the two API's.

      But now the Open Source Community and people from around the Globe have gathered to re-write the Interoperability Bible of OpenGL with Longs Peak and Mt Evans not just equaling DX10, but far surpassing it!

      OpenGL, OpenGL ES and the whole family of OpenKode and other new API's means we'll have many API's that will Scale Applications and Games with little loss in Quality from very big to very small on every platform. With OGL ES comes Write to memory with 4 to 1 on the fly compression! ...what does that mean? Think about it.....less memory required...

      Here's an eye opener from yesterday at GDC of what's in store in this Premeir set of API's! history being made with things like OpenMax putting PS3, Window CE, Windows XP and Windows Vista streaming to shame across all devices from PC's to Cell Phones. Streaming Multi-media like we've never seen before..... INSTANTLY!!!

      OpenVG will make life "READABLE" with vectored fonts from the tinyest Cell Phone Screen to Macs, Windows and Linux. Even PS3 will open up a whole new world in i's READABLE XMB, and HOME very soon!

      Joke: "Turn Abouts Fair Play" ***OpenGL Family of API's represents a redistribution of Wealth of Resources (once horded over by just Microsoft) now handed out to the Masses for us all to play with!*** It's going to be a whole new world where Steve Balmer comes knocking on the door to play and it gets it slammed in his face! ....what's that Balmer??? "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers..... Extend, Embrace, Extinguish the competition and Developers, Developers, Developers .....duh hey no fair, I'm about to be Extinguished!!! Bill Gates begins to realize MONEY isn't everything, kneels at his bed in later life to pray, can be heard pleading (as he glances back over each shoulder in paranoia), "...and please dear lord, don't let "Open Source" be the death of me ....and a remember all te millions I've donated???". Then the Lord answers back for the 1000th time, "...hmmm I don't recall"!!! (as the screen turns blue) ;)

      (hehe ...reminds me of Gates back in U.S. vs Microsoft....