updated 11:30 am EST, Thu February 21, 2008
MS Publishes Free APIs
Microsoft today quickly halted speculation about its significant announcement by revealing that it will freely publish the application programming interfaces (APIs) and communication protocols for many of its key products, allowing any company looking to use some of Microsoft's techniques for their own software. The access extends to both Windows Vista and Server 2008 as well as the .NET framework that underpins some application code. Office 2007 and Microsoft's latest server suites for Exchange, SharePoint, and SQL are also covered, according to the company. More than 30,000 pages are expected to go online and will include documentation of how the company implements cross-platform standards.
The move is designed to help interoperability between software developers, says chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who also notes that many large-scale businesses depend often exist in a heterogeneous environment where the need to support software from more than one company is often essential.
Microsoft's move confirms earlier predictions that it is reacting to recently renewed European antitrust investigations, which have accused Microsoft of failing to provide enough information about its code to third parties. A number of large software houses have prompted the investigation, noting that Microsoft's historically limited documentation of both its APIs and its standards implementations prevent them from developing programs that integrate properly with Microsoft's own or support standards on an equal footing.
Office 2007 has been a particular subject of investigation and has been criticized for its switch to the Microsoft-made Office Open XML (OOXML) standard, which is described as open-source but is often criticized for fostering incompatibility problems between the Office suite and alternatives. Others also note that OOXML is believed to be an attempt to undermine the more universal Open Document Format (ODF) developed by Microsoft's challengers.