Microsoft spells out the new future

Ballmer promises four new principles - to ensure open connections, promote data portability, enhance support for industry standards, and foster more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open-source communities.

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Microsoft also is providing a covenant not to sue open-source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols -- a huge move for any Linux or open-source developers that may have feared litigation from Microsoft.

The company said Thursday that developers will be able to use the documentation without charge to develop products. However, companies that want to commercially distribute implementations of the protocols still must obtain a patent license from Microsoft.

On the OOXML front, Microsoft promised to design new APIs for its Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications so developers can plug in additional document formats and enable users to set these formats as their default for saving documents.

While there are add-on technologies that can translate between OOXML - the default file format in Office 2007 - and other file formats, Microsoft has not included the ability to set other file formats as default in the product suite.

Microsoft said Thursday it will use a new Open Source Interoperability Initiative to provide resources, facilities and events to the community, including labs, technical content and opportunities for ongoing cooperative development.

Microsoft also is seeking an ongoing dialogue with customers, developers and open-source communities through an online Interoperability Forum. And Microsoft will launch a Document Interoperability Initiative to address the issue of data exchange between widely deployed formats, the company said

Microsoft's Interoperability Executive Customer (IEC) Council will oversee the new principles and initiatives to help keep the company honest. The IEC is an advisory board established in 2006 and comprised mainly of chief information and technology officers from more than 40 companies and government institutions worldwide.

More information about the news can be found on Microsoft interoperability site.

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