I'm listening now to a telephone press conference with top Microsoft execs about the company's new strategy shift towards Data Portability and Interoperability for their high volume products like Windows and Office. Ray Ozzie says it is opening up the same APIs that internal developers use out into the public at large. Has Google made announcements like this? Believe it or not, Microsoft may be putting a stake in the ground that's ahead of Google on openness and other important directions for the future. Details from the call dampened my enthusiasm a bit but the announcement is notable none the less.
The highlight of the call seems to be that Microsoft will be opening the same APIs used by internal developers to build on the company's "high volume products" as public APIs available for free noncommercial use and paid commercial use. That sounds like a good start. See the company's Interoperability site for more, details from the call below.
The press release is here. Details below as they emerge, see also Centernetworks, where Allen Stern is also live blogging the call. If you'd like to listen to a recording of the call, you can use your phone (!) to do so at (800) 945-2760 for the next 30 days.
A Microsoft VP whose name I missed is going over its past efforts on software interoperability, collaboration with major open source vendors and Identity. Today's announcement of principals is a big expansion on what they've done in the past. Lots of documentation will be published immediately. A document interoperability initiative will make sure that all user created documents are usable anywhere.
APIs and communications protocols will have free "trade secret licenses" made available now and in the future those licenses won't need to be used. Noncommercial API calls will be available without cost. Patent licenses for commercial implementations of APIs do still cost a fee. Commercial and noncommercial developers are of course being treated very differently. Open APIs, with a fee for commercial application, seems a fair way to move into the future, though I can't help but wonder if it will be cost prohibitive in this case for small startups.
There are far more mentions of legal pressure Microsoft is facing than there are of data portability. The company is saying that these steps are being taken on their own accord and I'm sure there's some truth to that. "In a more connected, services oriented world the biggest value add will be in what happens on the other side of the wire," says Microsoft's Brad Smith.