RealTime IT News

The Microsoft Pledge of Compliance?

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft pledged Wednesday to continue to comply with the court-ordered provisions of its historic antitrust settlement after parts of the deal begin expiring next year.

As part of its post-antitrust settlement pledge, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, outlined 12 principles that would guide Redmond in the future development of its Windows operating system, beginning with the release of Vista, currently scheduled for early next year.

Smith told the luncheon crowd at the National Press Club that Microsoft is committed to designing and licensing its operating systems to make it easy to install non-Microsoft programs and to configure Windows-based PCs to use non-Microsoft programs.

Under Microsoft's new principles, computer manufacturers and consumers will be free to install and promote any operating system, any application and any Web service on PCs that run Windows.

Smith added that Microsoft will design Windows to allow both manufacturers and consumers to set non-Microsoft programs to operate by default in key categories, particularly in the use of browsers and media players.

The U.S. antitrust agreement requires Microsoft to disclose all of the interfaces internal to Windows. Known as middleware, the disclosures allow the independent development of application programming interfaces (APIs) that operate the same way as built-in Windows features.

"It's important to be open and constructive as a matter of process in the design and release of future products before products are released, not after," Smith said.

While Smith's remarks were directed to an American audience, he no doubt also had the European Commission (EC) in mind when he noted, "This is the responsible thing to do."

Last week, the EC fined Microsoft $375 million for not complying with the EC's order to unbundle its media player from Windows and to disclose information that would allow rivals to interoperate with Windows.

Smith called the EC's fine "unfortunate," but stressed, "it is not possible in any one single document to disclose everything."

Smith said that Redmond will endeavor to build into Windows choice for computer manufacturers and consumers, opportunities for developers and interoperability across diverse platforms.

"These principles are 12 tenets to govern and guide the development of Microsoft Windows," Smith told the New America Foundation. "We want to put users in charge of their own machines."

Going forward, Smith said, Microsoft would make available to developers all interfaces within Windows, such as Microsoft Office, so that anything Microsoft products can do, competing products will be able to do, as well.

Smith added that the new principles were based on the lessons learned through Microsoft's bruising antitrust battles.

"We've learned the importance of humility," he said. "We do not pretend these principles answer all the questions, but we need to move forward where there is clarity and consensus."