Posted by Steve Mutkoski
Senior Standards Strategist

As Craig Shank mentioned in a post last week, standards are an important part of a dynamic ICT marketplace, fostering interoperability, collaboration, competition and consumer trust. I’d like to follow up on that post, highlighting the fact that the enablers of a dynamic ICT marketplace are openness and choice. 

To provide solutions that span products and technologies for our customers’ needs, it’s crucial to have a healthy and robust standards environment. Some will say that one development or standards model or another is the best or most valid, but at Microsoft we believe that openness in standards development is the best way to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, whether those needs are rapid innovation, broad adoption, cost efficiency, or specific customer requirements. And we believe that openness in how standards are developed and implemented leads to greater choice in the marketplace. Likewise, we believe that an open marketplace is the best way to determine the success of a standard—companies and customers will choose to use the standards that meet their needs, not because they are all that’s available through government mandate or regulation.

What does Microsoft mean when we talk about “choice” with regard to standards?

Choice, for us, means embracing formal standards, informal standards and widely adopted industry specifications alike as valid tools for enabling technology adoption and industry innovation. Each has its unique function and value. These different approaches benefit diverse communities with widely varied interests; no organization or process is more successful than any other in terms of delivering more “perfect” standards. You can expect industries and companies to use the standard, or multiple standards, that are the most responsive to market needs and offer the best opportunities to succeed in their respective businesses.

At Microsoft, we actively engage in all of these standards development approaches. Microsoft has a strategic interest in participating in these diverse standards efforts to ensure that our products are compatible with the broader technology environment in which they operate.

Our standards development compass

Microsoft has developed a set of governing principles that guide our engagement and participation, based on our extensive work in the global standards ecosystem. Successful standards development is best accomplished by a collaborative, cross-industry approach and we believe these principles can and should apply to all stakeholders involved:

Inclusion—Standards succeed when they meet the needs of the market. We believe it is important for relevant stakeholders — small companies as well as large; emerging markets as well as mature — to have the opportunity to participate in all types of standards development. Microsoft believes that a strong and vibrant standards community is inclusive of voices from all markets, including those that don’t traditionally have experience in developing, adopting, contributing to and promoting standards in the ICT industry. 

 

Transparency — Standards-setting processes should drive for consensus (i.e., broad agreement across the participants) and participant neutrality (i.e., no single point of view is favored over another in the process) and processes and documentation should be made publicly available for comment, input, and testing. Transparency of implementation is also an important and often overlooked component of standardization and enables better interoperability of implementations. For example, Microsoft documents its standards support and implementation in our high-volume products. We publish large volumes of documentation and protocols, offer Microsoft IP under our Open Specifications Promise and license many elements of our IP portfolio. This transparency and information sharing creates more opportunities for people to develop products that interoperate with, complement, and even compete with, Microsoft solutions.

Technology Excellence — Standards succeed because they meet real world customer needs and deliver value to implementers and users. That value comes from the technical contributions that go into the standard. We believe it’s important to create an environment in the standardization ecosystem that brings the most compelling technology contributions to the table. As much as the underlying technology itself is important, the quality of the specification itself is also critical. A standard is useful to the market and likely to foster interoperability only if it is clear in its goals and is embodied in a well written specification.

In our next post, we'll outline the ingredients Microsoft believes are needed to achieve a healthy standards ecosystem.