Is Microsoft turning over a new leaf?

This time, the company's talk of increased openness has some substance behind it, with APIs for the latest versions of popular apps for the first time

When Microsoft announced on Thursday that it was changing its business practices to be more open -- specifically to release documentation on its APIs and protocols -- many people reacted with disbelief. The European Commission, which has battled Microsoft for a decade over anticompetitiveness, said in very blunt terms that it didn't believe Microsoft was sincere. After all, Microsoft has made the "open" promise before but never delivered.

Yet in this case Microsoft's commitment may be genuine. For many years, developers have asked Microsoft to open up and enable them make to modifications to applications. By all appearances, that's exactly what the company is doing.

What Microsoft really did

In a show of good faith, Microsoft published about 30,000 pages of documents on the APIs and communications protocols for the latest versions of key products: Windows Vista (including the .Net framework), Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007. A sampling of these pages, according to InfoWorld's Strategic Developer blogger Martin Heller, shows that Microsoft is providing real details valuable to professional Windows developers. "From what I've seen so far in a random sampling, the docs they posted have the inside information all right, and it's just as ugly and full of version-to-version changes as they've been telling us all along," he said.

What sort of modifications to Microsoft apps may result? For example, developers could change the default document format for Office, said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group. Although developers can now add additional file formats, they can't make them the default.

But under the new strategy, he noted, developers have the APIs to be able to add their own import/export standards -- even the Open Document Format (ODF) that the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the European Commission have approved. Moreover, the new API approach would let company's choose their preferred import/export formats as the default for Microsoft Office.

This shift meets a key requirement of several European governments that have mandated the use of a nonproprietary standard. Providing this capability also means Microsoft Office could still be used by those governments, who otherwise would have had to move to competing products such as OpenOffice.

Ovum analyst Laurent Lachal notes that Microsoft has not pledged to support the ODF document format outright. Nor has the company said it will ensure the quality of OOXML-ODF conversion, which he calls disappointing omissions.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Galen Gruman

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?