Microsoft's Interop Push
In some late-breaking news, Microsoft this morning announced what company officials
called "significant" changes to its technologies and business practices
that are designed to increase the interoperability of high-volume products with
those of competitors, including open source-based software.
Speaking at a press conference today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer outlined
four new interoperability principles. They include ensuring open connections,
promoting data portability, enhancing support for industry standards, and fostering
more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source
"These steps are an important step and significant change in how we share
information about our high-volume products and technologies," he said.
Below are Ballmer's detailed explanations from today's news conference of the
new principles and how they'll be implemented:
On open connections:
"We will document all of the APIs and communications protocols that
are used by Microsoft products. We are announcing that developers will not
need to take a license or pay a royalty or other fee to access any of that
information. As an immediate first step to apply the principles, we are publishing
to the Web over 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows clients and server
protocols that were previously available only under a trade secret license.
Also, protocol documentations for additional products like Office 2007 will
be published in the upcoming months."
On data portability:
"We recognize that different users support different file formats
for different reasons. We have consistently supported different file formats
and user choice. But with today's announcements, specifically, we are 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."
"We are also going to document how we are going to support various
standards, including documentation of extensions we make to those standards.
They should allow developers to understand how a standard is used in a Microsoft
product and how to foster and improve interoperability for customers."
On industry engagements:
"We set out some years ago to form an Interoperability Executive
Council which has been very valuable in terms of input to us on important
interoperability needs. But with this announcement, we are also launching
what we are calling our Open Source Interoperability Initiative. This will
provide a set of technical content and other information that promotes more
interoperability between Microsoft software and open source software. We will
also create an ongoing dialogue with customers and developers, as well as
the open source community, through an online interoperability forum that will
be much more broadly available than our Interoperability Executive Council."
Ballmer concluded his remarks by saying that, indeed, Microsoft's "long-term
success" depends on its ability to deliver a software and services platform
that's open, flexible and provides customers and developers with choice. For
more in-depth coverage of the conference, including comments from Ray Ozzie
and others, check out the news
story by Jeffrey Schwartz, Redmond Developer News magazine's executive
Early reactions from some industry analysts and pundits suggest that Microsoft's
timing of this announcement has a lot to do with the International Standards
Organization holding meetings
next week to decide whether Redmond's Open Office XML document format should
be granted status as a certified ISO standard.
For more information about today's announcement, go here.
Microsoft: Vista SP1 Will Break Some Applications
Even before it's officially out of the blocks, Microsoft has published a list
of applications that will either flat-out not work or break under Windows
is largely populated with security programs including Trend Micro's Internet
Security 2008. Perhaps a bit surprising, however, is that the New York Times
Reader is also on that list. Not good.
A statement released by the company about SP1 reads, in part: "Windows
Vista Service Pack 1 contains many security, reliability, and feature updates
for Windows Vista...a program may experience a loss of functionality after you
install Windows Vista SP1. However, most programs will continue to work as expected
after you install Windows Vista SP1."
Hey, thanks, thanks a lot. Good thing Microsoft doesn't make airplanes. "Your
aircraft may experience a loss of functionality after you install Windows Vista
Vista doesn't need to be giving existing and prospective users any more
headaches at this point. This will do nothing to calm the fears of those already
skeptical about migrating to Vista because of incompatibilities with their older
Gates: People Are at the Heart of Yahoo Deal
Microsoft's interest in Yahoo is all
about the people. This, according to Microsoft chairman and chief software
architect Bill Gates himself.
Speaking to reporters after a speech he gave earlier this week at Stanford
University, Gates said he believes that what makes Yahoo worth $40 billion (and
yes, the company's worth has fallen some based on the stock's performance since
Feb. 1) is the company's high level of engineering talent. Chairman Bill noted
that it takes an enormous amount of manpower to generate the necessary tools
to build the wide range of technology that keeps its existing core products
and services moving forward, as well as to come up with new offerings.
Bill could be just sweet-talking Yahoo's powers that be so they would agree
amicably to the deal. But letting the outside world know the importance of Yahoo's
talent to the deal may be risky, given there's a good chance that many top-level
programmers would leave the company if Microsoft succeeds in its acquisition
Industry analysts have pointed out more than a few times this month how different
the corporate cultures of the two companies are, to say nothing of how different
their business models are (i.e., Yahoo is primarily a media company and Microsoft
is a software engineering company). But Gates said that the fact Yahoo wants
to do "breakthrough software" and compete well against Google is what
would bind the new company together.
And sweet-talk is all Chairman Bill is willing to offer the Yahooians:
He's decidedly not willing to sweeten the deal financially by offering
more than the $44.6 billion already on the table. He believes the first offer
is both "full and fair."
But just in case sweet-talk isn't enough, Microsoft's preparations to wage
a proxy fight against Yahoo to gain control of the company are now well
underway. If sweet-talk and hardball don't work between now and March 13, Microsoft
will nominate and present its own list of directors to Yahoo's board.
Windows 7 Gets a Voice
Speaking of sweet-talk or otherwise, Chairman Bill also dropped
some hints this week about Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista that's
due -- oh, I don't know -- several light years from now.
While he didn't spill a lot of details, Gates said he expects Windows 7 to
represent a "big step forward in terms of speech." So it sounds like
users won't have to rely on mice and keyboards as much as they have in the past.
Microsoft officials have already intimated that gestures similar to what Apple
iPhone users employ would be important features in Windows 7, meaning touch-screen
capabilities will be one of the highlights. It's Redmond's hope that many younger
students and working professionals will gravitate toward laptops and other mobile
PCs that will be capable of some sort of pen input in the future.
One has to wonder: With all the features Microsoft had to yank out of Vista
in order to ship the darn thing inside of five years, is the company asking
for more trouble by trying to cram these next-generation technologies into a
product aimed at hundreds of millions of people?
Well, who knows how Windows 7.0 will look and feel? Or maybe we do know. Over
the past week, someone leaked screenshots
that were reportedly of Windows 7 to a number of Web sites. These screenshots
show a work in progress that looks like it could be a close cousin to Vista
with some differences. In one example, users can apparently display hidden items
in the system tray via a pop-up window, while in another the Control Panel sported
Mailbag: Microsoft Not Taking 'No'
for an Answer, More
Despite Yahoo's initial rejection, the Microsoft-Yahoo buyout deal hasn't
quieted down. In fact, Microsoft is gearing up to take the fight to the
Yahoo board room. But one reader thinks the decent thing to do is to back down:
Maybe I am a throwback to an earlier era, but my immediate thought was
that if Yahoo does not want to be absorbed by Microsoft, then Gates and Co.
should respect that -- and get lost.
Yesterday, after reporting that Dell would be revamping
its support services, Lafe asked readers to share their own tech support
stories. Here's Judith's tale of woe:
Early last summer, our school received a shipment of 22 Dell desktops.
The first problem was that of the 22 machines, four had problems. Two had
bad hard drives, one had a bad DVD burner and the fourth had a bad video card.
While this percentage is inexcusable, what was even worse was the miserable
way I was treated. It took six different phone calls to get service. On each
call, I'd be transferred to at least three different people and each would
ask me to repeat the same information: my name, my organization, my phone
number, my order number, etc. Each call would take 30 to 50 minutes with no
resolution. At one point, the person on the line accused me of "stealing"
the video card from the machine. When I voiced indignation at the accusation,
he said that the kids in the school must have stolen the card. What a marvelous
way to do business.
I realize that there were several issues to solve. I was new to the position,
so I was not the name on the order. The computers were ordered in June, arrived
in July, but the school year and my job did not start until September. Yes,
these problems were mine, but Dell's response was beyond abysmal. They should
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Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.