Posted by Tom Robertson 
Associate General Counsel

Last week was exciting for Microsoft as we hosted the 2009 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 09) in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. We made announcements for our company and our partners that will help create opportunities for the IT industry and benefit IT users around the globe.

In my last blog post I took the opportunity of the release of Microsoft Office 2007 service pack 2 to explain how openness and transparency are vital steps in a larger, industry-wide effort to make interoperability a reality. In this post I want to take a closer look at how our efforts to be transparent as to the technical interfaces of our products promote real-world interoperability.

On Monday July 13th, we announced that Office 2010 and related products are available for technical preview by invitation-only. While the products won’t be widely available until 2010, we have already published, in conjunction with the technical preview, thousands of pages of detailed technical specifications for the protocols used by Microsoft products to communicate with Office 2010. The documentation describes each protocol in detail, including technical requirements, limitations, dependencies, and other protocol behavior. Anyone in the world with a web browser is free to review it anytime they want without charge.

What does this mean? Months before the product is widely available, we’re openly sharing information that will enable third parties to develop software that interoperates with Office 2010, informed by how other Microsoft products do so. This will speed new products to market, increase customer choice and satisfaction and drive better business results.

This kind of open access to information is a central tenet in our Interoperability Principles. The aim of these principles is to give all software developers—including commercial ISVs, open source developers, and developers in customer IT departments—technical information that can be useful in building products that work well with our most popular products. All told, we’ve published more than 33,000 pages of technical documentation relating to interoperability with these Office products, and we’ve seen more than 250,000 downloads of the entire range of our interoperability documentation in just the past year.

This model of transparency through access to developer resources has already enabled real-world interoperability in other areas. In December 2008, for example, Microsoft published detailed protocol documentation for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), as part of the expansion of our EAS IP Licensing Program. EAS is the technology that enables mobile devices to synchronize e-mail, calendar and other information with Microsoft Exchange Server. While EAS had been licensed in the past, the posting of this documentation provided consistent, open access for all developers to the Microsoft protocols built into EAS that enable interoperability. As a result, many leading companies—including Microsoft competitors like Apple, Google, Nokia, and Palm—have licensed the EAS protocol patents, making it possible for their customers to synchronize Exchange data on the most widely used mobile phone platforms in the world.

I’m confident that the publication of Office 2010 protocol documentation will ultimately lead to similar benefits that increase innovation, customer choice and opportunity in the market. After all, the end-game of all this transparency is to fulfill our mutual customers’ needs for interoperability. In today’s typically mixed IT environments, customers need solutions from a wide variety of vendors to work well together, and transparency among those vendors is an essential step toward that end.