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?