REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 21, 2008 – With the emergence of Web services and service-oriented architectures, and the growing importance of software plus services, interoperability across systems has become a key requirement. At a press conference today, Microsoft unveiled a new set of principles and actions designed to increase the openness of its products and drive greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for developers, partners, customers and competitors.
Bob Muglia, Senior Vice President, Server and Tools Business
PressPass sat down with Bob Muglia, senior vice president, Server and Tools Division, to learn more about the company’s new interoperability principles and to get a sense for what these changes will mean for customers, the industry and for Microsoft.
PressPass: Can you start by providing a high-level overview of today’s announcement?
Muglia: Sure. The announcement covers broad and important changes to our technology and business practices designed to increase the openness of our high-volume products to make it easier to develop highly-interoperable information systems. The changes are embodied in four interoperability principles in which we have committed to. First, to provide an open connection to our high-volume enterprise products; second, promote data portability; third, continue to enhance our support for industry standards; and finally, to create more opportunities to strengthen dialogue and engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities.
Together, these principles significantly change the way we share information about our technologies and products. These changes help increase choice and opportunity for developers, partners, customers and competitors, which is one of our top long-term goals.
PressPass: Are there specific steps that you are taking to fulfill the commitments you just outlined?
Muglia: We’re doing a number of things immediately. Starting today, we’ll publish on the MSDN Web site more than 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols that were previously available only under a trade secret license. We’ll publish protocol documentation for additional products, such as Office 2007, in the upcoming months. This is really important because open access to this documentation will allow third-party developers to connect to Microsoft’s high-volume products just as Microsoft’s other products do.
Also, we’ll allow open source developers to access these protocols for free for development and non-commercial distribution. For commercial distribution, Microsoft will license related patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, at low royalty rates.
To increase transparency and promote broad compatibility with widely-deployed products, we’ll document how we support industry standards, and we’ll also document any extensions affecting interoperability that we implement in our products. This documentation also will be available on our Web site without a license, royalty or other fee required for access. If Microsoft has any patents that cover these extensions, they’ll be available on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms as well. This will give third-party developers a clear understanding of how a standard is used in a Microsoft product, which will help foster improved interoperability for customers.
We’re also designing new APIs for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications that will enable developers to plug in additional document formats and allow users to select those formats as their default for saving documents.
PressPass: You’ve mentioned Windows and Office. What other products or technologies does this announcement cover?
Muglia: The interoperability principles will apply to all of our high-volume products. These are products that are central to day-to-day operations and processes for many large companies. Specifically, the principles apply to Windows Vista, including the .NET Framework, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007 and Office SharePoint Server 2007. They will apply to future versions of those products, as well.
PressPass: Why are you making these changes, and why are you announcing them now?
Muglia: The interoperability principles and the steps we’re taking to fulfill them reflect significant changes in the way computing resources, data and systems are created, provisioned and managed. The emergence of Web services and services-oriented architectures, and the growing importance of software plus services, makes interoperability a very important capability. The ability to move data and information seamlessly between applications and systems - regardless of platform or vendor - is a key requirement for our customers. Our interoperability principles will give developers the technical foundation and information they need to build systems that support more seamless data exchange and portability across products and platforms.
This will become even more important in the coming years as loosely-coupled systems become a basic requirement for business success. Our long-term vision is to enable companies to build IT systems that have the flexibility and intelligence to automatically adjust to changing business conditions by aligning computing resources with strategic objectives. Microsoft is helping customers move to that state through our Dynamic IT initiative, and the interoperability principles are an important component of that.
PressPass: Isn’t this also intended to be a part of an agreement with the European Commission?
Muglia: Today’s announcement isn’t part of an agreement with the Commission. However, it’s a reflection of the changed legal landscape for Microsoft and the industry as a whole. It’s an important step forward in our ongoing efforts to fulfill the responsibilities and obligations outlined in the ruling of the European Court of First Instance in September 2007.
PressPass: Is this a real sea change for Microsoft and the way you approach interoperability, or are the changes more incremental?
Muglia: Interoperability isn’t a new concept at Microsoft. When we talk about interoperability, we’re talking about enabling different kinds of software systems to work together. Our vision has always been to enable data and information to flow as freely and seamlessly as possible between people, products and systems. That’s why we have more than 600,000 industry partners around the world who build their business on Microsoft platforms, as well as millions of developers who use the information we already share to build products and services.
Today’s announcement also signals a significant shift toward even greater transparency. While we have published a lot of information about our APIs in the past, today we are formally committing to document and publish so any developer can use all interfaces that run on Microsoft’s high-volume products.
In the past, we’ve required a trade secret license to access our communications protocols. Now, anyone will be able to see the documentation for these protocols for free on the Web.
We’ll also publish information about how our high-volume products implement any standards related to interoperability, and we’ll document extensions of those standards that we implement that affect interoperability, which is not something that we’ve done consistently in the past.
These are all significant changes, and they build on our historic commitment to interoperability.
PressPass: If these APIs and protocols are so critical to Microsoft’s business, why share them so openly not only with customers and partners, but with competitors.
Muglia: As I mentioned earlier, in today’s computing environment, the ability to move data easily between systems is such a key requirement for our customers that we recognized we needed to take significant steps to support the ability of developers to build systems that interoperate easily.
There’s another reason as well. Throughout our history, our ability to deliver the best platform for developers to create products and services that enable businesses to succeed has been one of the most important reasons for our success. Today’s announcement helps ensure that the Microsoft platform will continue to offer the best foundation for developers and customers to create and deploy IT solutions in an increasingly interoperable world.
We believe the changes we’re announcing today will create exciting opportunities for our customers, for the industry and for Microsoft. Our commitment to openness and interoperability will help developers build a new generation of high-value solutions for businesses. In the process, it will allow us to continue expanding the ecosystem of partners and developers who use our tools and technology to meet the needs of their customers. We think that’s the key to promoting long-term growth for the industry and for Microsoft.