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

Reading the tea leaves

Microsoft's announcement caught many people off guard, even though a movement toward opening up has been occurring within the company for the last year or two. The announcement's timing may have been meant to influence the outcome of this week's ISO meeting on the OOXML standard for Office documents, which Microsoft has been pushing instead of the ODF standard approved in 2005, theorized Burton Group's O'Kelly. ISO has already rejected Microsoft's proposal once, though it did get another standards organization, ECMA, to endorse it.

Others have speculated the announcement was meant to ratchet down Microsoft's contentious relationship with the European Commission.

Another possible reason for the announcement's timing was to promote Microsoft's new server technologies, which are being formally announced this week, and Windows Vista, which has had a slow buy-in by users, postulated Iona's Newcomer. He doesn't believe it is an accident that Microsoft has publicized just the APIs for its newer technologies, since improving interoperability with earlier technology would give those earlier products a longer life and delay purchases of the new ones.

Still, O'Kelly and Newcomer said that whatever motivated the specific timing of the announcement, it appears that the commitment behind it is real. Ovum's Lachal is more circumspect: "It is in everybody's best interests, including Microsoft's, to keep scrutinizing and challenging the company's initiatives in this area."

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Galen Gruman

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