Microsoft Commits to Greater Interoperability

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-02-21 Print this article Print

The company has already released more than 30,000 pages of documentation for its Windows client and server protocols on MSDN.

Microsoft rolled out its big guns, including CEO Steve Ballmer and Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, to underscore its commitment to the set of new interoperability principles announced Feb. 21 that are designed to increase the openness of its high-volume products and drive greater interoperability.

In fact, Microsoft's long-term success depends on its ability to deliver a software and services platform that is open and flexible and provides customers and developers with choice, Ballmer said during a media teleconference.

In addition to the four new interoperability principles that the company says will ensure open connections, promote data portability, enhance support for industry standards, and foster a more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open-source communities, Microsoft released more than 30,000 pages of documentation for its Windows client and server protocols.

This documentation of the API and communication protocols used by other Microsoft products was previously only available under a trade secret license through the Microsoft WSPP (Work Group Server Protocol Program) and the MCPP (Microsoft Communication Protocol Program).

Read more here about Microsoft's claim to support open standards.

The company also plans to release protocol documentation for other products, including Office 2007, over the coming months, and developers will not need to take a license or pay a royalty or other fee to access any of that information, Ballmer said.

"These principles were taken of our own accord and, while they do reflect our unique legal situation, they also reflect the challenges and opportunities of this more connected, service-oriented world, where added-value services are done at the other end of the wire," Ballmer said. "While this allows others to take share from us, it also allows others to add value to our products and offerings. There are risks that come with it but, on balance, it is favorable to us and should add value for shareholders."

These interoperability moves are also designed to further increase the openness of Microsoft's high-volume products such as Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista and Office 2007, and to drive greater interoperability and choice for its developers, partners and competitors, Ballmer said.

He also announced the launch of the Open Source Interoperability Initiative, which will provide a set of labs, technical content and other information to promote more interoperability between Microsoft software and open-source software.

In addition, a broad online interoperability forum will be created to facilitate an ongoing dialogue with customers, developers and open-source communities.

"We are also committed to living up to our legal responsibilities around the world, and we think this announcement is entirely consistent with those legal responsibilities," Ballmer said.

For his part, Ozzie said that when a new type of product or technology is introduced, innovation tends to trump interoperability and data portability. But as users put more of their data in these products, a new set of issues emerges.

"As an industry we have progressively learned that documents and data have a lifetime that frequently spans well beyond the lifetime of any application used to create it, and issues such as document preservation and portability have become vital concerns for customers," Ozzie said.

Also, as a direct by-product of the Internet age, every product has become interconnected in some way to most everything else, so interoperability between systems has also become a vital concern, he said.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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