Back when Bill Gates ran Microsoft like an old-style Indian Maharajah, we would say that its bluster against open source was "bad Bill" and its moves of accomodation were "good Bill."
There's a new man on the throne, but the game remains the same. So today was a "good Steve" day. (That's new CEO "good Steve" Ballmer on the right, as Gates' two-year transition into retirementwas announced, almost two years ago now.)
In addition to its interoperability promises regarding Microsoft HealthVault, made in response to market demands, Microsoft has made a bunch of similar promises regarding its main product line, which our own Mary Jo Foley has treated with all the skepticism of a veteran Microsoft watcher.
As Bloomberg notes, this was in response to pressure from European regulators, whose antitrust work has been far more rigorous than that of the U.S. throughout this decade.
It might also be in response to the ongoing struggle Microsoft has undertaken to get the formats for Office approved as an ISO standard, which always create comment here when mentioned.
Which begs the question. Is this an honest change of policy, or is this just a bow to political pressure, pressure which lobbying and campaign contributions might some day remove?
I can't answer that definitively. The problem is, neither can anyone else. Microsoft has been playing good cop-bad cop for so long, its every move regarding open source leads to mistrust.
If Australia's government can win forgiveness by apologizing to its aboriginal people then CEO Ballmer can hold a press conference, lay out Microsoft's technical and legal policy in straight English, take questions, and stand by his statements.