Microsoft APIs – Not Open Source, But More Open

Was it pressure from the EU, a ploy to encourage ISO adoption of MS-friendly document formats or maybe, just maybe, the “disruption” created by enterprise adoption of open source? Whatever the reasons, Microsoft today announced it is:

“implementing four new interoperability principles and corresponding actions across its high-volume business products: (1) ensuring open connections; (2) promoting data portability; (3) enhancing support for industry standards; and (4) fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities.”

The products include:

“Windows Vista (including the .NET Framework), Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007, and future versions of all these products.”

As Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie put it in the press release: “By increasing the openness of our products, we will provide developers additional opportunity to innovate and deliver value for customers.”According to Matt Aslett of The 451 Group, what it really means is this:

“It’s an acknowledgment that in today’s world, many more flowers bloom when platform companies make their APIs completely open for developers to write to, a la Google and MSFT’s recent investee, Facebook. This is yet another thing Google has taught the largest software company in the world. It appears on the face of it that Microsoft now intends to live by the merit of its products, rather than rely on lock-in.”

Of course, it could also be just a “Good Steve Day,” according to ZDNet’s Open Source blog:

“Is this an honest change of policy, or is this just a bow to political pressure, pressure which lobbying and campaign contributions might some day remove?”

Speaking for myself, I tend to agree with Jay Lyman at The 451 Group, who calls this “Open source disruption realized“:

“This is just another case of companies coming around to market realities. Look at it like the Internet. Did the Internet suffer when Microsoft finally came around and began supporting and focusing on really working with it? Hardly. The companies that have already focused on the enterprise potential and opportunities for open source software retain their lead. They may have to work harder to maintain it, but that is a good thing, both for users and for open source.”

Is a more open Microsoft a good thing? Is it an open door to better interoperability or an open jaw to swallow open source competitors? Post your comments below?