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Microsoft Hands Down The 12 Tenets

"The entire mountain trembled violently. There was the sound of a ram's horn, increasing in volume to a great degree. God came down on Mount Sinai, to the peak of the mountain. He summoned Moses to the mountain peak, and Moses climbed up...Moses went down to the people and conveyed this to them." --Exodus 19 (Thanks, Wikipedia)

Moses, meet Brad Smith. In the most spectacular and far-reaching declaration of numerated principles since the 10 commandments, Microsoft's top lawyer yesterday passed down to the gathered masses a set of decrees the company literally calls "Windows Principles: 12 Tenets to Promote Competition."
Our exclusive RCP camera caught this image of Smith delivering his message to the lucky peasants at the National Press Club.

The big news here seems to be that Microsoft will allow computer manufacturers to set Google (or Yahoo!, even) as a default search engine within Vista. That's big news given how much money Microsoft is pumping into MSN and Windows Live and the huge role Windows has obviously played over the years in killing off competitors' wares.

But, just when you think Redmond might really be changing its often arrogant ways, check this out: Microsoft has bravely said that it will "not block access to any lawful Web site or impose any fee for reaching any non-Microsoft Web site or using any non-Microsoft Web service."

Well, thank you, Redmond! You mean we're going to have the freedom to download our own non-IE browsers and use them to look at whichever Web sites we want? Oh, Redmond really is being too gracious with this one. How will we Windows-using simpletons ever handle the responsibility? (You ought to read what they're saying over at this ars Technica thread.)

In fairness, there are some encouraging tenets, such as Microsoft declaring itself willing to support industry standards, provide APIs to other software developers and not engage in retaliatory practices against computer manufacturers that support non-Microsoft software. But most of what the 12 Tenets represent is Microsoft finally admitting that it will comply with its U.S. antitrust settlement (see this and this). On that front, Europe -- where the real antitrust battle is raging -- has been eerily quiet so far.

Really, though, a lot of what Microsoft is talking about doing is probably what it should have been doing all along for the good of users, partners and maybe even itself: opening Windows for competition and making it an easier platform for non-Microsoft development. And many observers don't see enough in the 12 Tenets to declare the era of a "new Microsoft."

Still, any commitment to openness, a reduction of predatory practices and support for industry standards from Microsoft is a good sign. So we shouldn't be too quick to bury the 12 Tenets, which do represent a rare admission from Microsoft that the company hasn't always been perfect in the past and might need to make some adjustments to better serve its customers and partners in the future. Microsoft, however, would do well to step down from Mount Sinai and stop pretending (with its trademark arrogance) that it has just, out of the goodness of its heart, ushered in some new era for Windows and the company as a whole. Also, let's wait and see how well Microsoft sticks to its own 12 Tenets. Actions, as always, speak louder than words.

What would you add to Microsoft's 12 Tenets? Do you have a list of your own for making Windows more open to competition? Is Microsoft really turning over a new leaf, or is this all just spin?

Posted by Lee Pender on 07/20/2006 at 1:19 PM


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