Microsoft said Thursday it will provide extensive documentation for APIs covering its major software products, including Office 2007, the Windows client and server, and the .NET Framework. Much of this information had been closely held, available only along with trade secret licenses or only within the company.
The move is an apparent extension of concessions Microsoft made late last year in the face of a difficult European Union Commission antitrust case. As described by Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie at a press briefing, the API initiative is also a response to an industry-wide move toward software that is delivered as a Web service. Major Microsoft managers Steve Ballmer, Bob Muglia, and Brad Smith appeared at the briefing along with Ozzie.
Ozzie described the API move as a strategy shift. Software users need software and services that are “flexible enough such that any developer can use their open interfaces and data to effectively integrate applications or to compose entirely new solutions,” said Ozzie.
Microsoft’s Muglia said the company would publish the more than 30,000 pages of protocol documents created as a part of the effort to meet requirements set by the European Commission and the Department of Justice to divulge information to independent software and hardware vendors.
“In the coming months, and no later than the end of June, we will publish the protocols in Office 2007 that are used to connect to any other Microsoft product, including Exchange Server 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007, as well as — we will take the .NET Framework related protocols and publish those on our Web site, on MSDN,” said Muglia.
For his part, Steve Ballmer said the company was designing new APIs for Word, Excel and PowerPoint that will allow developers to plug in additional document formats, and enable users to set those formats as their default for saving documents.
In the blogsphere, early reaction to the Microsoft announcement sometimes centered on its relation to the EC’s case against the company, and efforts by Microsoft to gain OSI acceptance for its OOXML format. In his Digital Daily Feed blog John Paczkowski notes that the European Commission seems unimpressed by Microsoft’s declaration of interoperability principles. The EC said in a statement: “This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past.”
The intersection of patents and open software remain an issue for Microsoft to address. For its part, Linux vendor Red Hat wants more, saying that MS should make additional commitments. Editor Joseph Ottinger discusses this with the Java community at TheServerSide.com.