We think this is a timely and important topic, so we invited a guest, Tom Robertson from our interop group to write about this.  Enjoy.

As a consumer, an information worker, an IT pro, or the developer who supports them all, getting one device to talk to another, transferring data from one application into another, or sharing data with partners or customers has always been a priority. With the world becoming a more connected place every day and the IT marketplace becoming more heterogeneous, interoperability is more important than ever.

At Microsoft, we believe that we should take a pragmatic approach to interoperability that uses the range of tools available to us and others.  This approach relies on four pillars of technical interoperability:  products, access, standards, and community. You can learn more about our broad interoperability efforts here.

Our recent announcement of new Interoperability Principles is an element of these broad efforts.  The Principles articulate a series of steps that we will take to enhance the ability of third party products and services to interoperate with our high-volume products -- Windows Vista® and Windows Server® 2008 operating systems, the Microsoft SQL Server® 2008 database, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, and Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007.  These steps include Ensuring Open Connections, Supporting Data Portability, Enhanced Support for Standards, and Driving More Open Engagement.  

We have already begun to implement the Principles.  Tens of thousands of pages of technical documentation on protocols has already been posted (if you have any questions about these, take part in the Open Protocols Specifications Forums for answers).  We have also launched the Document Interoperability Initiative, which is bringing together vendors to focus on a range of steps to achieve interoperability between implementations of document formats in the marketplace.  This includes testing different implementations, developing test suites, and creating templates optimized for interop between different formats, all with a view to achieving the kind of interoperability that customers want.  These are early days, and there is more to be done, but we are moving forward.

Join the conversation

With the launch of the Interoperability Forum we are taking another step to implement the Principles.  The Forum is designed as a place for you to get your burning interoperability issues on the table, share a best practice, or propose a solution. This is a place where issues of interest across the industry can be discussed.  No single company can address interoperability challenges on its own. In fact by definition collaboration is critical to success.  We support a dialog among all stakeholders, including customers, partners, and the broader development community, to define the issues that matter.  We hope you’ll join the interoperability discussion by asking questions, offering solutions, and participating in a constructive dialog.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Tom Robertson

General Manager, Interoperability & Standards