Microsoft Rivals Skeptical Of Software Maker's Openness Pledge

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems said it will take a wait-and-see approach in determining whether the changes will alleviate its concerns.
Microsoft on Thursday outlined a broad range of initiatives that the company said are designed to make its products and technologies more open to those made by rivals. So far, however, the company's main competitors aren't buying it.

"The proof of this pudding will be in the eating," a group that comprises Microsoft's software industry foes said in a statement Thursday.

"The world needs a permanent change in Microsoft's behavior, not just another announcement," said the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, which counts among its members Sun Microsystems, Adobe, IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, and several other vendors that compete with Microsoft.

ECIS has long accused Microsoft of deliberately withholding, or overcharging for, the protocols members need to make their products work with the Windows operating system and other Microsoft software.

Europe's competition watchdog last month launched two new antitrust investigations into Microsoft's business practices following a complaint from ECIS.

The European Commission is eyeing the possibility that Microsoft is violating monopoly laws by failing to make its products interoperable with competitors' offerings and by illegally bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with the Windows operating system.

Partly in response to those complaints, Microsoft said Thursday that it's adopting four new "interoperability principles" to guide its business practices.

Microsoft will work to ensure that its products feature "open connections" that will allow outside developers to more easily write programs that interact with its own. Second, Microsoft pledged to support new data portability methods that will allow information stored in Microsoft products such as Office 2007 to be accessed by other programs.

Microsoft also said it would more fully embrace industry standards in "high volume" products such as the Windows operating system to enhance interoperability with third-party software. Finally, the company said it would increase communications with customers, IT managers, and the open source community "to drive a collaborative approach to addressing interoperability challenges."

ECIS said it will take a wait-and-see approach in determining whether the changes will alleviate its concerns. "We have heard high-profile commitments from Microsoft a half-dozen times over the past two years, but have yet to see any lasting change in Microsoft's behavior in the marketplace," ECIS said.

ECIS noted that Microsoft last year introduced a campaign called Windows Principles under which the company made a number of interoperability pledges. But the campaign failed "to address in any meaningful way the fundamental abuses of which Microsoft had been found guilty," ECIS charged.

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