Microsoft has just announced a set of "Windows Principles" - aka "Twelve Tenets to Promote Competition". As the ZDNet news story put it: Microsoft vows to play fair. The crux of it is that Microsoft pledges its future Windows desktop platform, starting with Windows Vista, will promote "computer manufacturer and user choice, opportunities for developers, and interoperability for users". Microsoft blogger Alex Barnett is tracking coverage of this.
I especially like number It's an acknowledgement that Microsoft understands the Web is the number 1 platform now - not the OS 6 about APIs. Microsoft is pledging more developer documentation for APIs, meaning "anything that Microsoft’s products can do in terms of how they plug into Windows, competing products will be able to do as well." This bodes well for its Vista and Live product line, because one key to success will be building an ecosystem of plug-ins and modules around those platforms. So it makes business sense, as well as... er, moral sense. Indeed Microsoft addresses Windows Live in number 7:
"Microsoft is contributing to innovation in the area of Internet services with services that we call Windows Live. Microsoft will design Windows Live as a product that is separate from Windows. Customers will be free to choose Windows with or without Windows Live."
This isn't really a surprise, as integrating Windows Live (Microsoft's set of web-based apps and services) into the OS in a closed way would be the death knell for Live. The Web is their platform now. So they need an external developer ecosystem - and associated user base - to grow around the Live platform.
It's good to see Microsoft come out with these principles. Cynics will suggest the proof will be in the pudding - i.e. let's wait and see what business practices Microsoft carries out in the coming years to ward off competitors like Firefox and Google. But at least announcing these principles is (among other things) an acknowledgement that Microsoft understands the Web is the number 1 platform now - not the OS.
Here are the main tenets (via CNET):
Choice for computer manufacturers and customers
1. Installation of any software
2. Easy access for software makers
3. Defaults for non-Microsoft programs
4. Exclusive promotion of non-Microsoft programs
5. Business terms (no retaliation against PC makers that support non-Microsoft software)
Opportunities for developers
6. Disclosure of APIs
7. Freedom of choice in Internet services
8. Open Internet access in Windows
9. No exclusivity in middleware contracts
Interoperability for users
10. Availability of communications protocols
11. Availability of Microsoft patents
12. Support for industry standards