Today Microsoft made a substantive announcement about interoperability and I’d like to discuss the elements of the announcement on my blog.

 

The Announcement

 

As many of the readers of this blog know, I have been working on interop issue for MS over the past 2 years. I went back and dug around my old posts and would point you to May 10, 2006 to give some perspective on our thinking on interop. I point this out to emphasize how an announcement of increased interoperability efforts in February of 2008 is an evolution of long-standing work and in-line with a significant progression of work on this subject.

 

All of our work around interoperability must meet the needs of customers, partners, governments, and competitors. There are always so many facets to any step of this significance. In fact it may take months if not years of ongoing product improvement and development to see the full implications of the announcements today.

 

When I consider the reach of the principles announced today, it strikes me that:

 

1)      Microsoft recognizes the responsibilities it has regarding its high-volume products and is acting accordingly

2)      Competitors, partners, and anyone producing software (commercially or not) need to receive practical benefit from the principles

3)      Customers will have the opportunity to derive greater value out of their software investments through improved interoperability

 

Of course it is always about details, details, details. The basic rundown of the interoperability principles is as follows:

 

1)      Open Connections to Microsoft High-Volume Products

Anyone building software should be able to exchange data with a Microsoft high-volume product using the same mechanisms that any other Microsoft product would use.

2)      Data Portability

Once information is stored in a Microsoft product, that data will be made available for access so that it may be used in another vendor’s software.

3)      Support for Standards

For years, Microsoft has spoken about the fact that standards are one of many important ways to achieve interop – this principle establishes clear guidelines for how a given standard will be supported. Customer input will be critical in the decision of which standards to support.

4)      Open Engagement On Interoperability

Interoperability is not possible if only one party participates. The path forward for any interested party in interoperability is through ongoing, constructive dialog about the technologies, business relationships, legal agreements, and standards work that will ultimately enable real-world interoperability.

 

The myriad of details in the announcement can be found here.

 

There are many significant elements to this announcement that merit deeper discussion. Let’s just take the Standards piece as an example. In order to enhance broad compatibility, Microsoft will work closely with customers through executive councils and other mechanisms to hear what standards the customers would like to see implemented. Furthermore, we will be more proactive in thinking about what MS technologies should be standardized earlier in our processes. Additionally, transparency will be improved by our committing to document how we support the standards that do make it into a shipping product. Thus there will be documentation that describes not only what spec we are saying we adhere to, but also discuss if and how we may have done any extensions to the spec relative to interoperability. And finally, all of this will be posted to our website so that devs can get the info without signing a license or paying a royalty to see that info.

 

Fundamentally today’s announcement will improve how Microsoft’s products and technologies mesh into complex IT environments. Ultimately IT organizations will end up with greater choice of solutions because of this.

 

Other blogs worth checking out on this:

Gray Knowlton

Brian Jones

Bill Hilf