What's Behind Microsoft's Recent Moves?
A tip of the hat to Mary Jo Foley, who's blogging
about an issue
that's earned our attention. That is, the spate of Microsoft
announcements, initiatives and policy changes that all seem to point toward
a more open and standards-compliant stance from Redmond. I wrote
in the March 4 issue of the Redmond Developer Newsletter.
The question all along has been: why? Why is Microsoft now opening access to
its technologies and conforming to standards? Is it all about customer demand
and being competitive? To an extent, absolutely -- Microsoft customers and developers
have welcomed all the recent moves. But it also seems that each new initiative
is spurred by a pointed threat.
As Foley points out in her blog, the January decision by Microsoft to allow
its customers to virtualize the Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium
versions of its operating system may not be due to Microsoft becoming comfortable
with the security of the environments. Rather, a legal complaint from BIOS maker
Phoenix Technologies may
have spurred Microsoft to change its stance.
According to the recent Joint
Status Report from the Department of Justice in the United States vs. Microsoft
Corporation case, Phoenix in December complained that its new virtualization
product was likely to suffer from Microsoft's license restrictions. Phoenix
also argued that Microsoft's stance would "deter consumers from using virtualization
software made by Phoenix and other companies."
Microsoft moved quickly to resolve the complaint. As the document notes: "After
discussions with Plaintiff States and the [Technical Committee], Microsoft agreed
to remove the EULA restrictions and has done so."
It's hardly surprising that Microsoft, perhaps the most examined company in
the world, might have to change course in response to legal or regulatory threats.
What's really interesting is that we've seen several such corrections over the
past couple of years. Whether it's Microsoft embracing
XML file formats to avoid having Office locked out of Massachusetts, or
Redmond announcing a four-point
interoperability initiative just ahead of a European Union finding, it seems
like there's an important dynamic driving some key business decisions in Redmond.
What does it mean for developers? In the short-term, Microsoft has delivered
increased transparency, openness and interoperability. By any measure, these
are very good things. The only concern is that it may have taken the point of
a spear to get them done.
What do you think of Microsoft's recent moves? Do the motivations behind them
even matter if developers are gaining the access and interoperability that they
need? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and you could be featured in our upcoming coverage of this issue.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/11/2008 at 1:15 PM