LAS VEGAS-Microsoft is hoping customers and developers will accept the release of the Internet Explorer 8 beta as concrete evidence of its commitment to the recently announced new interoperability principles.
Microsoft rolled out a set of four new interoperability principles Feb. 21 that it said would ensure open connections, promote data portability, enhance support for industry standards, and foster more open interaction with customers and the industry.
The company has also denied that it was pressured to increase the openness of its high-volume products. While Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s vice president of intellectual property and licensing, acknowledged that many people were skeptical of the move, he said the company was confident that people would look at its actions as well as its words.
Now Microsoft is hoping they will do just that with IE 8. One Microsoft official after another here at MIX08 pointed to the just released first beta for Internet Explorer 8, the next version of its Web browser, as evidence of that commitment, even glossing over the security advances the new browser would bring so as not to detract from that message.
“While there are security improvements in Internet Exchange 8 beta one, and there will be more going forward, we want people to know about the big shift we are making to prioritize standards,” Matt Lapsen, the director of Internet Explorer product management, told eWEEK at the MIX08 show here.
With regard to criticisms of its embrace of standards in IE 8, especially after it emerged that Microsoft had written a new layout component for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), Lapsen said there was no definitive CSS test suite, and its rewrite of the layout component had been designed to help move that forward.
“We have written it and are asking for feedback on it. We’re trying to help move standards forward, in an open way, and we are trying to give our users what they need and want,” Lapsen said.
The new layout engine, WebSlices and Activities functionality found in IE 8 were also all developed in response to user feedback and ensured that the new browser was delivering features that no other browser did, he said.
Microsoft is investing in new online services
Microsoft made the WebSlice Format specification available under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise, and was dedicating copyright in the specification to the public domain using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication, he said.
It had also made the OpenService Format specification available under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, Lapsen said.
Also, as people were using the Web ever increasingly more heavily, Microsoft was responding by investing in new online services. “Activities are a way to help expose online services, while WebSlices delivers what people want on the Web today. It allows persistent connectivity to what they care most about,” Lapsen said.
With regard to its recent decision to have IE 8 default to standards-compliant mode, Lapsen said the company had been thinking about the move for some time and that it was not related to the antitrust lawsuit Opera recently filed against the company.
The issue of standards and interoperability were complex and there has been a lot of discussion around this. “I know of no legal or regulatory requirement that would dictate what mode we put the browser in. We want to do the right thing and we want responsible disclosure,” he said.
But the moves will now make it very hard for Opera to prove its case, Chris Swenson, the director of software industry analysis at the NPD Group, told eWeek. “Now Microsoft can say that IE 8 is standards compliant out-of-the-box.”
By supporting CSS 2.1, HTML 5, and other Web standards, Microsoft was also actually helping its competitors in the browser space. “Pages that look great in one browser, will most likely look great in another. Thus, not only is IE 8 going to make developers happy, but it should make the guys at Opera, Mozilla, Apple, and elsewhere happy as well,” Swenson said.
Microsoft’s Lapsen notes that in addition to greater openness and interoperability, Microsoft also has to deliver innovation and value to its customers, partners and developers, while making sure the user remained in control.
But many of Microsoft’s competitors are skeptical, particularly those in the open-source space, with Red Hat’s General Counsel Michael Cunningham saying he had heard it all before.
But Microsoft’s Lapsen pointed to the fact that responsibility comes with market leadership, saying that “I believe that the way to staying open and following a clear path is to keep the user in control.”