One of the big changes over the last few years at Microsoft has been openness.  That is openness about interconnecting with other systems (i.e. non-MS systems), openness with regards to file formats and openness with regards to working with other technology companies.

Others in the industry have noticed this too.  We did the deal with Novell to further improve the interoperability between our products and Novell products.  We also changed the office file formats to make it easy to work with them and submitted them to the various standards bodies for standardization.  More recently we announced that we'd be opening up the source code for parts of the .Net Framework.

All this is part of a fundamental change at Microsoft which is driving us to be more open and transparent with our technologies.  So it came as no surprise to see in my inbox this morning an email from Steve Ballmer (a company wide email that is) explaining the announcement that was made this morning on this subject (see the press page for full details).

I don't know the details of how this will play out inside Microsoft, but I think it is a very good step on a path that we were already on. 

There are four areas that were specifically mentioned in the press release.

(1) ensuring open connections to its high-volume products;

(2) promoting data portability;

(3) enhancing support for industry standards; and

(4) fostering more open engagement with the industry, including the open source community, to address interoperability and standards issues.

This is a far reaching announcement, which is in line with the desire of OSS advocates in general who have been asking for years for a more open Microsoft, as well as with many Microsoft customers, partners and employees.  However, as always, the media picks and chooses who to get to comment on it and some people are never happy, and give it a bad spin and continue to try and build the "big bad Microsoft" image.

Regardless, I'm hoping to spend some time with PHP and Linux user groups in April/May, to talk about the improvements in running PHP applications on Windows Server 2008, but I'm also looking forward to seeing how this is received at a grass roots level in these camps. 

If you have a PHP or Linux user group that you are involved in around New Zealand and are interested in having some Microsofties come along to discuss this, please drop me a line and I'll try and fit it in to my schedule.  I already have an invitation to the Wellington PHP user group (thanks Brenda!), so I look forward to that one.