Opening Doors to Interoperability

I had to write a freshman term paper on Immanuel Kant, and chose as a topic his role in sparking the German Enlightenment, from which I at least learned the word Aufklarung … which surprisingly doesn’t come up much in normal conversation, even when I’m in Germany. But I’ve been thinking about that movement and its ramifications quite a bit, because of the ongoing technology enlightenment driven by “open-source” approaches.

When I announced I was joining Microsoft, several of my friends in the open-source-software “movement” raised their eyebrows and ribbed me for joining the dark side… although the brighter ones also pointed out several important trends and markers through 2006 and 2007, changes in Microsoft behavior and approach which appeared to signal that the company was tacking in a much more open direction. Ray Ozzie’s joining of the company, and his announced projects, were taken as significant, along with several software launches (both in the Live world and elsewhere) with fundamentally open foundations.

Today the company is making public what Steve Ballmer and Ray Ozzie are calling “important changes to our technology and business practices that will enhance the interoperability of our products and expand the technical information we share with developers, partners, customers, and competitors.” All to the good, including more comprehensive information about the new “Interoperability by Design” approach.

Government users of Microsoft technology — developers particularly, but also end-users — are going to benefit especially from the new approach, with its emphasis on four interoperability principles which will apply to all of the high-volume workplace products – Windows Vista (and the .NET Framework), Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007 – and future versions of these products, which are used throughout government and education settings. The four principles are:

  1. Ensuring open connections;
  2. Data portability;
  3. Enhanced support for industry standards;
  4. Open engagement with the rest of industry.

Inside the company, in the product groups I watch at work, there’ll be eager alignment with these principles in the product development and documentation process, and in collaborative outreach. In the broader circles of the software industry and open-source community, there will likely be profound ripples as we make more of the application programming interfaces (APIs) and protocols in these products available for easy download, openly accessible to developers without requiring any license or fee.

In words that many thought would never be uttered, Microsoft is also launching an Open Source Interoperability Initiative and creating an online Interoperability Forum to foster dialogue with customers, developers, and the open source community. I will be working with government enterprise users and, let’s say, “open-minded” developers in government IT departments to understand just how to take advantage of the new approach.

We’ve also made available some government case studies and other info outlining how we support public-sector interoperability, so have feel free to have a look.

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3 Responses

  1. dude, Google is going to the moon and back while you guys are playing with pretend-open


  2. and here’s Jim Zemlin, Linux Foundation executive director: “The world of software development has been marching in a steady direction toward being open and transparent. As Linux’s use continues to rise, so does the demand for customers to enable it to interoperate with Microsoft products. This announcement by Microsoft seems to indicate they want to participate in that march. Even if some of the announced details still seem less than ideal for open source developers, at least it’s a first step.”

    will be fun to watch…


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