Microsoft Changes Tack, Promises To Share

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musicnote.jpgADOTAS — Microsoft Corp. singing a new tune. The software goliath said today that it is changing its technology and business practices to increase the openness of its products and improve interoperability, opportunity and choice for developers, partners, customers and competitors.

The company will make some of its top technology applications widely available on its Web site and it pledged to allow open-source developers develop or distribute (noncommercially) Microsoft’s software blueprints.

“These steps represent an important step and significant change in how we share information about our products and technologies,” said Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer. “For the past 33 years, we have shared a lot of information with hundreds of thousands of partners around the world and helped build the industry, but today’s announcement represents a significant expansion toward even greater transparency. Our goal is to promote greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for customers and developers throughout the industry by making our products more open and by sharing even more information about our technologies.”

The interoperability principles and actions announced today apply to the following high-volume Microsoft products: 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.

The software company’s decision reflects a changing legal landscape for Microsoft and the IT industry. Earlier this year, the European Commission launched an antitrust probe of the company to find out whether it broke competition rules to help its products. And in September of 2007, the European Court of First Instance ruled that Microsoft had infringed on Article 82 of the EC Treaty by refusing to “supply its competitors with ‘interoperability information’ and to authorize them to use that information to develop and distribute products competing with its own products” and tying “Windows Media Player with the Windows PC operating system. The Commission considered that that practice affected competition on the media player market.”

Microsoft responded swiftly. “As we said immediately after the CFI decision last September, Microsoft is committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure we are in full compliance with European law,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel. “Through the initiatives we are announcing, we are taking responsibility for implementing the principles in the interoperability portion of the CFI decision across all of Microsoft’s high-volume products. We will take additional steps in the coming weeks to address the remaining portion of the CFI decision, and we are committed to providing full information to the European Commission so it can evaluate all of these steps.”

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