Microsoft Establishes 12 Principles for Windows Development

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-07-19

Microsoft Establishes 12 Principles for Windows Development

WASHINGTON—Microsoft has announced 12 principles by which the company will guide its development of the Windows desktop platform, starting with Windows Vista and beyond.

At a New America Foundation Policy Luncheon at the National Press Club here, Brad Smith, Microsofts senior vice president and general counsel, outlined the principles and discussed lessons Microsoft has learned over the past 10 years based on antitrust battles, regulatory scrutiny and fierce competition in the operating system and software market in general.

Smith said the principles largely come from things Microsoft picked up in the consent decree the software giant signed in settling its landmark antitrust battle with the federal government, but that more recent developments led to the crafting of some of the other principles.

The 12 principles are based on three main areas: choice for computer manufacturers and customers, opportunities for developers, and interoperability for users, Smith said.

"These principles are 12 tenets to govern and guide the development of Microsoft Windows," Smith said.

Microsoft adopted a set of philosophies that led to the crafting of the principles, he said.

One was the recognition that operating systems evolve over time and that the addition of new functionality to an operating system makes life easier for developers.

And, while the U.S. antitrust ruling recognizes that innovation in all forms is to be encouraged, it should not stifle competition, Smith said.

"Weve seen over the last five years steady improvement to audio and video playback in Windows, but at the same time weve seen phenomenal success by others," Smith said, noting that Apple with its iPod technology is an example of this.

Meanwhile, Smith said that beyond the new principles. "Weve have nearly five years of experience under the U.S. consent decree, and the one thing weve learned the importance of is humility…"

Ted Halstead, president and chief executive of the New America Foundation, who also served as host of the event, said, "This is a real, historic turning point, not only for Microsoft, but for the industry as a whole."

Next Page: The new principles.

The New Principles

The first principle goes to the installation of any software.

"We will ensure that Microsoft will design Windows in ways that make it easy for people to add non-Microsoft features," Smith said.

No. 2 is easy access: Computer manufacturers are free to add icons, shortcuts and the like to the Windows Start menu and other places used to access software programs so that customers can easily find them, Microsoft said.

No. 3 is defaults. Microsoft will design Windows so as to let computer manufacturers and users set non-Microsoft programs to operate by default in certain categories, such as Web browsing and media playback, Microsoft said; computer manufacturers can set these defaults as they please when building new PCs.

No. 4 is exclusive promotion of non-Microsoft programs, Smith said.

"This is an important new issue in regard to things like media and Internet search, as we are broadening to adopt this for Internet search as well," he said, indicating that Microsofts fierce competition with Google aside, the company is dedicated to this principle.

Guru Jakob Nielsen offers advice on designing applications for usability. Click here to watch the video.

No. 5 is business terms: Microsoft will not retaliate against any computer manufacturer that supports non-Microsoft software, Smith said.

To provide transparency on this point, Microsoft will post a standard volume-based price list to a Web site that is accessible to computer manufacturers, as it has under the U.S. antitrust ruling, he said.

Principle No. 6 deals with APIs. Microsoft provides the developer community with a broad range of innovative operating system services, via documented APIs (application programming interfaces), for use in developing state-of-the-art applications.

And the U.S. antitrust ruling requires that Microsoft disclose all of the interfaces internal to Windows called by "middleware" within the operating system, Smith said.

Principle No. 7 involves Internet services, where Microsoft is contributing to innovation in the area of Internet services with services that the company calls Windows Live, Smith said.

"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," the company said.

No. 8 is Open Internet access, where Microsoft will design and license Windows so that it does not block access to any lawful Web site or impose any fee for reaching any non-Microsoft Web site or using any non-Microsoft Web service, Smith said.

Principle No. 9 is "no exclusivity," Smith said.

The U.S. antitrust ruling provides that Microsoft may not enter into contracts that require any third party to promote Windows or any "middleware" in Windows on an exclusive basis and Microsoft has pledged to continue this, Smith said.

Next Page: Microsofts pledges.

Microsofts Pledges

Principles 10 through 12 deal with interoperability for users and say that Microsoft will make its communications protocols available for commercial release, the company will generally license patents on its operating system inventions, and the company is committed to supporting industry standards.

Read more here about Microsofts offer to share Windows protocols.

Moreover, "the principles do not supplant the continued application of antitrust law," Smith said.

"This is an important tool and an important step. We do not pretend that these principles answer every question for all time."

Smith said Microsoft pledges to be "principled, transparent and accountable" in its development of Windows going forward.

"Weve learned its important for Microsoft to be open and constructive in the design of Windows, and engage in an open dialogue with governments."

Regarding the ongoing battle Microsoft is having with the European Union, Smith said he hopes these principles can help.

Smith said in its legal wrangles over the years Microsoft learned the important of persistence, "not only in standing for what you think is right, but also persistence in keeping open dialogue."

Smith said many of the companies Microsoft had legal battles with early on were companies they could not come to an agreement with "the first time."

However, Microsoft kept the dialogue open and eventually came to terms with many of those companies and settled matters to all parties satisfaction.

"I hope we can do that here," Smith said, referring to the EU situation.

Meanwhile, Smith said "Microsoft will honor the principle of net neutrality… We are committed to the principle. The Internet is a very special asset for the world, and anybody can access anything anywhere. "

Also, while the new principles address the Windows desktop, Smith said Microsoft may make another pass with additional guiding principles for Windows server and for Windows security.

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