Microsoft has taken a big step in opening up its APIs and it will have a substantial impact on developers.

Microsoft’s own statement rationalises the move as follows:

"The actions announced today reflect a strategic change in our approach to interoperability that has evolved over time based on market dynamics and customer needs.”

Open source may be anathema to Microsoft's business model, but it now recognises the creation of developer communities as a beneficial consequence of taking an open access approach. This is one more step in the direction of a community strategy.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for developers is that Microsoft is opening up the APIs that integrate Microsoft products with each other.

Developers have historically been stymied by undocumented “secret” APIs, providing more efficient and better-performing ways to link Microsoft products together, thus making it hard to break the tight intra-suite integration that has been the bulwark of Microsoft's business.

These open APIs also have the potential to enable innovative new applications and quite possibly, self-sustaining developer communities around these products. ISVs, open source coders and developers in customer IT departments will all benefit.

The one obvious gotcha is that MS will always have prior knowledge of the APIs so its internal teams will retain a substantial advantage in terms of developing to any new APIs as opposed to external teams.

So if you can kill off alternative protocols, making yours the de facto standard and at the same time get others to lag your own developers slightly, you get a bit of an edge.

Will Fellows, is a founder of the 451Group

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